The Free Dictionary Blog > 10 words to learn in 2020
10 words to learn in 2020
Not ready to eschew New Year’s resolutions, but also not interested in the same old conspicuous commitments people make each year? Allow us to assuage any resolution-related anxiety with some new words for the new decade!
Go ahead and ameliorate your vocabulary with the following 10 words—they were among the most popular terms (or maybe just the most abstruse ones) that users of The Free Dictionary bookmarked or added to their flashcards in 2019.
Are you perspicacious enough to define all 10? Let’s find out!
Having a hard time understanding what “abstruse” means? Well, you’re in luck: it means difficult to understand. It comes from the Latin word abstrūsus, which literally means “concealed.”
(Just don’t confuse it with the word “obtuse,” which refers to a person’s lack of perception or intellect. It’s a bit of an abstruse distinction, we know.)
Now that we’ve covered “abstruse,” how about one of its synonyms, “esoteric”? “Esoteric” can also mean private or known only among a select few. Appropriately enough, “esoteric” comes from the Greek word for “inner,” esōterō.
Huh, we thought the meaning of this word was pretty obvious. We would even call it striking or outstanding.
Something got you down? If you assuage it, you make it less burdensome or troubling. “Assuage” comes from assuāviāre, a Vulgar Latin word that combines as (a variant of ad-, meaning “to”) and suāvis (“sweet”).
Something that stirs your emotions can be described as “poignant.” If you struggle with spelling this word, you might prefer its Middle English spellings, poynaunt and poinaunt. (You can say merci to French for the spelling we currently have.)
Did you know that “meliorate” is a word? It is, and like “ameliorate,” it means to improve something. Though "ameliorate" is more commonly used today, it began as an 18th-century alteration of “meliorate,” likely influenced by the French word améliorer (“to improve”). Does this make “ameliorate” an amelioration of “meliorate”? You be the judge.
Chew on this: If you want to avoid something but sound fancy while doing it, you can say that you’re eschewing it. While “eschew” derives directly from the Old French word eschiver, it is ultimately of Germanic origin.
“Recalcitrant,” which means very stubbornly resistant to authority and difficult to manage, has a well-heeled etymology: It comes from the Latin word recalcitrāre, meaning “to kick out with the heels.” The Latin word calx, which influences recalcitrāre, also stepped over into English as the anatomical name for the heel.
If you’re especially discerning or perceptive, congratulations! You’re officially a perspicacious person. This mouthful of a word comes from the Latin word perspicax, meaning “sharp-sighted” or “acutely observant or attentive.” If you need a more in-depth perspective, then look no further than perspicere, meaning “to look at closely.” This Latin term forms the root of perspicax—as well as “perspective.”
Even if you know what all of these words mean, don’t let hubris, or arrogance, keep you from learning some new words with The Free Dictionary in 2020!
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