I hope this list will be beneficial to you if you are already thinking about and preparing for the verbal section of the SAT. It may perhaps be helpful to intermediate and advanced students studying English as a second or foreign language or those wanting to improve their vocabulary for other reasons. We all learn in different ways, and it might help you remember definitions to have a visual association with the word.
It’s hard to illustrate some more abstract words with a picture alone, but the picture and sample sentence together tell a story.
All vocabulary words and their definitions came from the Barron’s SAT Vocabulary Word flashcards. The sample sentences are my own.
Rancor — lasting resentment
Mei-li was filled with rancor as she pondered all of the events that had gone wrong in her life lately.
Confound — throw into confusion or bewilder
Toby was confounded when he discovered his bicycle was not where he had left it.
Embellish — (1) make more beautiful (2) make a story more interesting by adding (generally fictitious) details.
The chessmen were embellished with intricate carvings.
Peripheral — (1) related to the surface or outer part (2) of minor importance
Using his peripheral vision, Jean-Pierre, the French bulldog, watched as the neighbor’s ginger cat, Lola, approached.
Inadvertently — In a manner exhibiting a lack of attention, unintentionally
While reaching to put the star on the top of the tree, Candace inadvertently knocked her elbow into a ball ornament, causing it to crash to the floor and break.
Frugality — carefulness in spending money or using resources
Emily was known for her frugality. While friends went out for pizza, she often had a cheap meal of packaged ramen noodles.
Obdurate — (1) stubbornly persistent in resisting persuasion (2) unsympathetic
No matter how his young mistress tugged at his leash, the pug remained obdurate, standing and staring at the hot dog stand across the street.
Antagonism — active resistance, hostility
After the incident, Amber felt such antagonism towards everyone, she unfriended her entire friend list.
Emulate — attempt to equal or outdo, imitate
She tried to emulate the style of her favorite painters.
Lavish — occurring or produced in abundance, opulent, luxurious
Homophones are words that have the same sound but different meanings as well as different spellings.
Sometimes, people confuse these spellings. You may have come across grammar Nazis of the Internet complaining of the misuse of they’re, their and there.
As I was thinking of the definitions of the three, I seemed to hear it to the tune of “Do Re Mi.”
“They’re, they are, a contraction,
Their, something belongs to them,
There, a place that is not here …”
Only, singing it and hearing it sung would not help much, would it? All the homophones sound the same. It would perhaps help if you could both hear it and visualize it simultaneously.
One blunder this “grammar Nazi” often comes across on the Internet is swapping of “it’s” and “its.” It’s is again a contraction of “it” and “is,” and “its” is the possessive of it.
It’s raining. It is raining. By the way, isn’t that a cool umbrella, book lovers?
“It’s raining” and “Its reign.” How is that for double homophones?
Its reign over the amphibious world was a kind of benevolent dictatorship. Now, if only he could find a girl to kiss.
Some homophones come in triplets.
Pair (of Boots)
To pare is to cut off the outer skin of something such as a fruit or vegetable.
Just like there is “pear” and “pare,” there is also “bear” and bare.” Actually, I think the pretty lady above is wearing a bathing suit, but that is as bare as I dare go on this site.
I remember my older brothers telling me this rhyme when I was little.
“Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
If Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
And Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,
Then Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?”
In that case, Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bare bear, don’t you think?
Here are some other homophones that are a bit more tricky. Recently, I read two different online articles that, although otherwise well-written, had a misspelling of palate. In both cases, the writer meant to say, “palate,” as in a person’s taste or appreciation of flavors. In one case, the writer spelled it as “pallet” and, in the other case, as “palette.”
A pallet is a platform on which goods can be moved, stored, or stacked, especially with a forklift.
A palette is a slab on which an artist mixes colors.
Palate can refer to either the roof of the mouth or to a person’s taste or appreciation of flavors. A wine critic may use the term in both senses.
How can you remember the differences?
I personally find it very easy to visualize words in their correct spellings, but I understand that not all brains are wired in a similar way.
Pallet — Perhaps, you can imagine the two Ls as stacking pallets turned vertical.
Palette — This word has a French origin and spelling, so you could imagine the stereotypical French artist painting “au plein air” with a beret on his head.
Palate — Perhaps, you could imagine the two As as something edible, like two sunny-side-up eggs with strips of bacon to the right of them, forming the stems of the As.
Sometimes, silly mnemonic devices are effective.
“Stationary” and “stationery” are another pair of homophones I often see confused. Something “stationary” is not moving. “Stationery” is writing paper.
Stationary (as in Stationary Bikes)
Photo by Trust Tru Katsande on Unsplash
How do you remember the difference? How about this? While it’s true that “stationary” can be used in other contexts besides “stationary bike,” think of cyclist Lance Armstrong. The first two letters of his last name, AR, are the same two letters in the beginning of that syllable that has a different spelling than its homophone. Armstrong, Ary.
There’s a big difference between “guerilla” and “gorilla,” although both would be pretty intimidating if you came across one in the jungle.
If you have a background in French or Spanish, it might be easier for you to remember the difference in spelling. “Guerre” is French for war, and the Spanish word for war is “guerra.”
So, here we have a little “cuteness overload.” A fawn is a baby deer, but “fawn,” with this spelling, can also have three other meanings. It can refer to a light, brown color or, as a verb, can mean to court favor in a flattering manner or to show affection, (used eespecially of dogs.)
A faun is a mythological creature that is half-man and half-goat. The creature has the upper half of a man and the lower half of a goat. Usually, the head is drawn with some goat-like qualities as well. The Greek god, Pan, is a faun, and Mr. Tumnus, of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a faun. Faun is synonymous with satyr. Satyr is from the Greek, and “faun” is Roman.
You don’t want to confuse heroin with a heroine. Heroines need to stay clear of the other kind of heroin.
The picture above is rather a pretty one to represent a harmful, addictive drug, but heroin is an opiate that comes from poppies.
A heroine is a female protagonist or hero of a story.
Remember the cymbals on a drum set and those icon symbols on your phone or computer have two different spellings, as do friar and fryer.
I suppose a friar may do some cooking, so it’s possible he may do some frying? We call someone in that position a fry cook, and the appliance they use is a fryer.
Have any of these homophone pairs or triplets confused you in the past? Can you think of some other interesting homophones? Share in the comments.
If you like the study of interesting words and expressions, check out The Wonder of Words category of the blog.
Do you put hundreds and thousands on your fairy cake? Or do you put sprinkles on your cupcake? Do you eat candy floss or cotton candy? If you said “Yes”‘ to the first choices, you are probably from the U.K. (or perhaps from Australia,) and if you said, “Yes,” to the second, you are likely from the U.S.
It is fun and sometimes practical to study the differences. If English is not your first language, and you plan to travel to either the U.K. or the U.S., it might be helpful to be aware of these language differences. Here is an American and British English words list with some explanation.
1. Arugula vs. Rocket
I didn’t know about this difference until somewhat recently when I saw the British term “rocket” on an Australian food blogger’s site. I also had assumed until recently that arugula was an Italian term and that Americans borrowed it from the Italians. It’s not. The Italian term for arugula is “rucola.” Experts believe the word arugula comes from a mispronunciation of an Italian dialect for the word. The Calabrian dialect for the word is “aruculu.”
2. Bacon vs. Rashers
Rashers is really more of a term for the slice of bacon, although I have read the term “rashers,” used alone, referring to bacon, rather than “rashers of bacon.” The best explanation I found online for the term is that “rasher” may come from a Middle English word, “rash,” meaning to cut. Sound-wise, rashers makes me think of “rations,” which, by association, makes me think of a stricter diet instead of feasting.
3. Like vs. Fancy
As an American, I had to watch quite a bit of British TV before I picked up on this little language nuance. It seems British use this term for when someone has romantic interest in someone else. “He fancies her” or “She fancies him.” Americans don’t seem to have such a specific expression. Aside from wording it as, “He is interested in her,” we tend to say, “He likes her.” “Like,” of course, has more than one meaning and can be used to mean liking in friendship or liking as in romantic interest. This can lead to somewhat silly and awkward junior high expressions as in, “He doesn’t just like her. He like likes her.” Maybe, we Americans should borrow the British expression?
4. Nice vs. Lovely
Both Americans and British use both terms, “lovely” and “nice.” The difference I’ve noticed is more relating to the frequency in which we use the words. I’ve noticed Brits use the word “lovely” in a lot of the contexts where Americans are more likely to use the word nice: a lovely day, lovely weather, a lovely person, etc. American men, I think, find the word “lovely” to be less than perfectly macho and rarely use it except to occasionally describe a special woman. American women say “lovely” a bit more but are still more likely to use the word “nice.”
5. Pants vs. Trousers
Trousers is not an unfamiliar word for Americans, but we don’t use it much. We can buy pants at the store that are labelled by American clothing companies as trousers, but, in ordinary conversation, we usually call them pants. The British seem to prefer the term, “trousers.”
6. Checkers vs. Draughts
Even some games go by different names in the U.S. and in the U.K., like checkers and draughts (pronounced like drafts.) American linguist, Lynne Murphy, says in her blog Separated by a Common Language, “The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that draughts is related to dragon and goes back to 1400.” Well, that is interesting, but that raises other questions for me. Maybe, if you combine the draughts/dragons with the queens, kings and knights of chess, you have the makings of some sort of fairy tale. The term “checkers” is related to chess, from the Middle English exchequer. From chessboard came “chequered,” meaning marked like a chessboard.
7. Attorney-at-law vs. Solicitor
In the U.K., lawyers are barristers or solicitors. Barristers can plead a case in open court and appear at the bar. Solicitors may conduct litigation in court but are not permitted to plead cases in open court. Barristers deal with clients indirectly through a solicitor. The attorney-at-law is the U.S. equivalent for solicitor.
8. Pharmacist vs. Chemist
I’m an American fan of British Golden Age mysteries, and the word chemist has come up a lot in that context. It took me a while to realize chemist was the British term for pharmacist. A pharmacist certainly is a kind of chemist, but there are other sorts of chemists in different fields of chemistry. This makes me wonder if this term causes any confusion for the Brits. Would a Brit in some other field of chemistry have to use some extra labels or terms to explain his profession so that he is not confused with a pharmacist? If you live in an area where British English is spoken, please, share your comment.
9. Cotton candy vs. Candyfloss
Cotton candy and candy floss both seem like sensible terms for this interestingly textured sweet. The fluffy shape and texture of the candy, as a whole, is like cotton, but the fibrous threads of sugar which make up the candy are like floss. Take the word “candy” out of either name, and neither name seems appealing to the palate, does it?
10. Cupcake vs. Fairy cake
American cupcakes and British fairy cakes are practically synonymous but there are a few differences. The two cultures have language differences and also some different food preferences and traditions. Fairy cakes are a bit smaller than cupcakes. They are lighter, spongier cakes and topped with a thin glace icing rather than buttercream or cream cheese frosting. The Brits call them fairy cakes, because, traditionally, the top was cut off and split, and the center was filled. The split top was placed on either side of the center, resembling fairy wings.
11. Sprinkles vs. Hundreds-and-Thousands
Hundreds-and-thousands seems to refer to how uncountable these colored bits of sugar are. Sprinkles, are, well, sprinkled. As an American, I think hundreds-and-thousands seems like a lot of extra syllable-bles. I also wonder what sort of reaction I would get if I went to an ice cream parlor near me and asked for hundreds-and-thousands on my ice cream. The server might ask “Of what?” and think I’m very greedy. Actually, the owner of one ice cream parlor near me is from the U.K. I think that man would be charmed if I did this.
I hope you enjoyed this American and British English words list. Would you like to see more like this?
I take it that the idea would just be rattling around in an otherwise empty cranium, without any companions.
2. It is as useless as a screen door in a submarine.
Now, that’s pretty useless … in fact, a bit worse than merely useless.
3. Grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ a sweet tater
Now, that’s a sight I’ve never seen, but this pumpkin-eating porcupine below is mighty pleased … so, I suppose it’s similar.
4. Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! (To show surprise)
Do I have to? And are you quite sure you want me to do that?
5. He’s so skinny, if he stood sideways and stuck his tongue out, he’d look like a zipper.
This one is so much more fun than “thin as a rail” or “thin as a toothpick.” When photographing your thin friend, ask him to pose as a zipper.
6. I’m prouder of that than a pup with his first flea.
Pedigree, dog show awards, obedience school certificates, maybe even heroism … all reasons for a pup to be proud, but, apparently, all it takes is a flea.
7. I’m so hungry I could eat the north end of a south-bound polecat.
I admit that I would have to be pretty famished for that to sound like a good snack.
8. Scarcer than deviled eggs after a church picnic.
Those are pretty scarce after a church picnic … and after a family gathering too. (My sister-in-law makes great ones.)
9. He was so tall he could hunt geese with a rake.
A guy’s got to be pretty tall to sweep a goose out of the sky with a rake. If the goose happens to be on the ground; however, hunting with a rake is not quite as impressive.
10. Slicker than snot on a goat’s glass eye
Okay, I understand that the glass eye belongs to a taxidermied goat like the one above from the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. My next question is, “How often does a goat’s glass eye get snot on it?” Maybe, we shouldn’t overthink that one.
11. So deep in jail he’ll have to be fed beans with a slingshot
I imagine the person with slingshot would have to have very good aim.
12. There’s a stump in a Louisiana swamp with a higher IQ.
This one goes a bit further than expressions like “dumb as a box of rocks.” The person in question is not as dumb as a stump, but the stump is actually a bit more intelligent.
13. He has the personality of a dishrag.
I’ve never met a particularly sanguine dishrag, have you? Note to self: don’t give a Southerner a reason to insult me.
14. We’re closer than two roaches on a bacon bit.
Well, that’s just gross, so enjoy this photo of frying bacon, which is not at all gross. Also, I’d rather not be compared to a roach even as a token of friendship, thank you.
15. This is more fun than a sackful of kittens.
I’m not sure I like the idea of a sackful of kittens, but a basketful is sure fun.
Do you like unique and quirky expressions?
Andy Westin, the narrator of my Jack Donegal Mysteries, has a few of his own.
Here’s what some reviewers have said —
“Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery is fun, engaging and delightfully entertaining, you won’t want to put it down! Susan Joy Clark pens a mystery full of comedic escapades. The bungling Mr. Magoo combines with the eccentricity of Columbo in the main character of Jack Donegal. Clark’s narrative is witty, comical and adventuresome. The writing style is artfully imaginative, using amusing and uncanny descriptions. The point of view is written from the perspective of the side-kick, which is rare, but really works! The antics of the characters keep the action moving quickly.” — Cheryl E. Rodriguez
“Andy is the consummate narrator who, while being completely authentic and original in his own right, agreeably reminded me at times of Nero Wolfe’s able and wisecracking sidekick, Archie Goodwin. Clark’s story is breezy, fun and fast-paced, and her plot is inspired. Jack and Andy are two of the most intriguing private eyes I’ve come across in quite some time, and I can’t wait until their creator conjures up another irresistible conundrum for them to play with. Action Men with Silly Putty:A Jack Donegal Mystery, Book 1, is most highly recommended.” — Jack Magnus
“Action Men with Silly Putty is a bizarre, hilarious and memorable read that should not be missed! When I read the description of Action Men with Silly Putty, I was hooked right away thanks to the bizarre but funny nature of it. I love stories with a twist, and I love even more when they combine action with humor, whenever I read books like this I imagine it as a funny detective drama on tv and Action Men with Silly Putty could undoubtedly be this! When I began to read Action Men with Silly Putty, I knew straight away that the story would deliver and fulfill my expectations and know that I have finished the book I can write that it did!” — Red Headed Book Lover Blog
A few years ago, I ran into Yogi Berra in an unlikely place … in a line at my pharmacy. I’m a New Jerseyan, and I knew he lived somewhere locally. I didn’t realize just how local he was. He lived at that time in a town neighboring mine, Montclair, where Montclair State University has a stadium and museum named for him.
When I first saw Mr. Berra in the pharmacy line, I wasn’t quite sure it was him, but I certainly thought it was a man who resembled him. I kept looking at him and wondering. At the time, I was seeing Mr. Berra in a few TV commercials for Entenmann’s cookies — “The box is always open until it’s closed” — and for a local car dealership. I thought perhaps I was mistaken, and this gentleman in the line just happened to have similar physical characteristics and also just happened to be wearing a Yankee baseball cap. The pharmacists behind the counter sure seemed excited to see him and were giving him the VIP treatment, bumping him to the front of the line. I knew for sure I had correctly identified him when I saw his prescription bag, and the name label, “Berra, Lawrence P.”
For a moment or two, I wondered if I should try and get an autograph for my oldest brother who is a big Yankee fan, but then I was too shy and didn’t want Mr. Berra to feel pestered. I expect though, that if I had pestered him, he would have reacted graciously.
It’s an interesting memory of running into a famous person in an unlikely place.
Here is a list of 10 unusual confused sayings — Yogi Berrisms — attributed to the player.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less travelled by.” Yogi says to just take it, both roads apparently … unless he means that if you happen to see a piece of tined silverware in the middle of the road, you should pick it up and take it home.
2. A nickel isn’t worth a dime today.
This might make a little more sense if it was, “A nickel isn’t worth a penny today,” or even, “A nickel isn’t worth a nickel today.” A nickel was never worth a dime, and if it was, that sure would be handy.
3. “You should always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”
Hhmmm… If people, whose funerals I have attended in the past, come to mine, I suppose I won’t know it, but a few other people might be freaked out.
4. “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
I can think of a sense in which this is true. The idea of what the future will look like has changed from past times. Back in the ’80s, I watched a movie, made in the ’60s, supposedly set in a far future time. The only problem was, this fictional future involved already outdated technology, giant clunky early computers.
5. “You got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
So, it’s possible that I may never arrive at some mysterious, unknown location and end up in an entirely different unknown location instead? Gotcha.
6. “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.”
I think the word you are searching for, Mr. Berra, is ambidextrous. I do know some guys who are amphibious … Kermit the Frog, Mr. Toad, Michigan J. Frog, Crazy Frog …
7. “Even Napoleon had his Watergate.”
I think we are confusing our politicians here.
8. “Baseball is 90 percent mental, and the other half is physical.”
I was an English major, not a math major, but I still think those are some interesting numbers.
9. “You better cut the pizza in four pieces, because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
So, you’re saying that if I cut the pizza in fewer pieces, I’m eating less? This is good to know.
Some of these quotes may be disputed or slightly changed from the original, and this perfectly explains the last Yogi Berrism.