Vicarious (adjective)

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Definitions:
1. Performed, exercised, received or suffered in place of another. 2. Taking the place of another person or thing

Synonyms:
by proxy, delegated, deputed

Examples:
Thus she can have a vicarious career by virtue of what she has put into her husband’s. It is vicarious suffering; for they do not know what is perplexing us.

Origins:
Mid 17th century : from Latin vicarius ‘substitute’

Malinger (adjective)

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Definitions:
to feign illness in order to avoid obligations, especially work

Synonyms:
duck, slack

Examples:
– I was just malingering when I called in sick; really, I was at the beach. – Senior ditch day is a tradition at many high schools, during which time graduating students opt to malinger rather than attend class, all on the same day. – Anyone caught malingering in our office will be promptly let go. – I would love to malinger today in order to go skiing, but I have too much I need to get done.

Tips:
Malinger comes from the French word malingre, or “sickly,” even though in the English usage the word means “to pretend to be ill” rather to actually be so. Do NOT confuse this word with linger (loiter). Many people use the word malinger to suggest walking around slowly or loitering; this is incorrect. A person who “skips out on” work or other obligations by pretending to be ill is known as a malingerer.

Scanty (adjective)

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Definitions:
1. smaller than what is desired; 2. barely enough

Synonyms:
deficient, meager, sparse, insufficient, stingy

Antonyms:
excessive, ample, sufficient

Examples:
– Another drought is expected this year because of scanty rainfall. – She was tired of working long hours for a scanty wage. – The woman was upset when her daughter came down the stairs, scantily-clad and ready to go out. – Our robust sales in the month of October made up for our scanty sales in September.

Tips:
When learning the word scanty, it may be helpful to think of the phonetically similar word skimpy. Something scanty is skimpy; it is barely enough. “Scantily clad or dressed” is a common phrase that means “wearing barely anything.”

Perfidy (noun)

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Definitions:
1. a betrayal of trust and faith; 2. an act of treachery

Synonyms:
treachery, dishonesty, betrayal

Antonyms:
honesty, faithfulness

Examples:
– Benedict Arnold is remembered for his perfidy more than for anything else. – Her perfidious actions shocked her husband; he could not believe she had betrayed him. – He is a loyal and patriotic man who would never commit perfidy. – She had no conscience, so perfidy came naturally to her.

Tips:
Perfidy originates from the Latin phrase per fidem decipere, which means “to deceive through confidence or trust.” Perfidy is used when someone who was trusted initially does something to betray that trust. The adjective perfidious means “dishonest, disloyal, treacherous, corrupt, or deceitful.”

Insulate (verb)

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Definitions:
1. to protect something or prevent the transfer to heat, cold, or sound by surrounding it in insulating materials; 2. to isolate or set apart

Synonyms:
shield, separate, protect, isolate

Antonyms:
expose

Examples:
– He left the country on vacation in order to insulate himself from the negative publicity surrounding the scandal. (protect, shield) – It impossible to insulate your children from all the violence and strong language in today media. – The builders used high-tech insulation to prevent the house from becoming too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer. – Kate insulated herself from office politics by not socializing with her coworkers and only talking about business when at work.

Tips:
Insulate is derived from the Latin insula, “island.” Think of the way an island stands alone in the middle of the ocean. A person who insulates him or her self tries to be isolated from others or from something potential harmful or hurtful. To insulate is essentially to protect from harm or damage. The noun insulation is the act of protecting something or the state of being isolated or protected. Insulation also denotes a material used to prevent the transmission of heat or electricity.

Nefarious (adjective)

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Definitions:
very wicked or evil

Synonyms:
bad, heinous, base, treacherous

Antonyms:
good, moral, kind

Examples:
– The con artist engaged in nefarious schemes that preyed on elderly victims. – He had an unsettling nefariousness about him and made people uneasy. – That single nefarious act made her infamous as a villain. – The depraved mob boss was eventually convicted for committing murder and many other nefarious acts.

Tips:
Nefarious refers to blatant evil or immorality. Its root word, nefas, meant “sin” in Latin. The noun nefariousness, of course, means evil or wickedness. Nefarious and depraved are synonyms. Both words are used to describe wicked, evil, and corrupt people or behavior. Depraved is used more to describe a person’s character, while nefarious is used more to describe the evil or corrupt act: “He is a depraved man who is known for his nefarious business practices.”

Whet (verb)

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Definitions:
1. to simulate an interest in something or intensify a feeling; 2. to sharpen something, like a knife

Synonyms:
entice, spur, awaken

Antonyms:
blunt

Examples:
– I decided to whet my appetite by having hors d’oeuvres before dinner. – You will have to whet the knife before using it. (sharpen) – Reading the synopsis of a book is usually enough to whet my interest in a story. – The small bite of chocolate whet my appetite for dessert, and I was soon craving fudge brownies.

Tips:
Whet is derived from the Old English hwettan, which meant “sharpen.” Whet can be used literally to refer to sharpening a knife or figuratively to mean sharpening an interest in something. You may have heard someone say, “The smell of the food whet my appetite.” This usually refers to someone’s appetite being stimulated by smelling the aroma of food. If you whet your appetite, you have “sharpened” your appetite and you have greater interest in eating.

Tirade (adjective)

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Definitions:
a long, angry speech, usually denouncing something

Synonyms:
rant, fulmination

Examples:
– My husband’s political tirades can sometimes make me sick to my stomach. – Her tirade seemed excessive, given that the situation was not all that serious. – The professor launched into a tirade about the importance of finishing one’s homework, and the students were stunned. – He’s famous for his tirades, and no one ever takes them seriously anymore.

Tips:
When somebody is “on a tirade,” it means that the person is speaking in an angry manner about something, and going on and on about it.

Mischievous (adjective )

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Definitions:
1. Causing or showing a fondness for causing trouble in a playful way. 2. (of an action or statement) causing or intended to cause harm or trouble.

Synonyms:
impish, naughty, playful, sly, bothersome

Antonyms:
behaved, good, kind, obedient, nice

Examples:
“And that would be a great pity”, said, Quicksilver with his mischievous smile. Of all mortal possessions they are the most useless, mischievous, and baleful. Born shortly after Adam, and is still up to mischievous tricks.

Origins:
Early 14c., ‘unfortunate, disastrous’ probably from mischief + ous. Sense of “playfully malicious or annoying” First recorded 1670’s. Related: Mischievously, mischievousness

Wry (adjective)

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Definitions:
1. combining amusement and irony for dry humor–sardonic; 2. temporarily contorted or bent to one side

Synonyms:
sarcastic, cynical, ironic, twisted, sardonic, mocking, crooked, warped

Antonyms:
serious, sober, solemn

Examples:
– The comic had a wry, self-deprecating wit. – His wry smile led me to believe he was being sarcastic. – Some people thought his wry humor was hilarious; others were offended by his twisted jokes. – The journalists’ wry commentary on the state of world affairs made him a popular syndicated columnist.

Tips:
Wry is derived from the Old English wrigian, which means, “to turn or bend.” Think of twisted humor that is dry and sarcastic. A wry sense of humor is one that is askew and completely different from a more traditional sense of humor–a wry joke is one that finds a unique angle of comedy.