Word of the Day: 1/11/16 – 1/15/16


Welcome to Monday! This week, Wordsmith has chosen five words that are likely to show up on an SAT, LSAT, MCAT, GRE, among other tests. Have a great week!

onerous (ON-uh-ruhs, OH-nuhr-)

adjective: 1. oppressively burdensome
2. having obligations or responsibilities that outweigh the benefits

From Old French onereus, from Latin onerosus, from onus (burden). Earliest documented use: 1395

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Some would say the safety standards now are too onerous, he added. I don’t believe that. The only reticence I have is that they are taking the sport of ocean racing further from the average person.”
Christopher Clarey; The Enduring Thrills and Chills of an Iconic Race; International Herald Tribune (Paris, France); Dec 20, 2008.

torpor (TOR-puhr)

noun: a state marked by apathy, lethargy, and inactivity

From Latin torpere (to be stiff or numb). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ster- (stiff), which also gave us starch, stare, stork, starve, cholesterol, torpedo, and torpid. Earliest documented use: 1607

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“I’ve had this job [film critic] for just more than a year, and during that time going to the cinema once a week has become a deeply dreary and onerous task, so much so that I now associate cinema buildings themselves with torpor, contempt, and monotony.”
Julie Burchill; Shooting for the Hip; The Times (London, UK); Oct 23, 1994.

welter (WEL-tuhr)

noun: 1. a confused mass; a jumble
2. a state of upheaval
verb intransitive: 1. to roll, writhe, or toss
2. to lie soaked in something, such as blood

From Middle Dutch welteren or Middle Low German weltern (to roll). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wel- (to turn or roll), which also gave us waltz, revolve, valley, walk, vault, volume, wallet, helix, devolve, and voluble. Earliest documented use: 1400

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“For one reason or another I’ve found myself involved in several different operations lately in a positive welter of activity, disturbing me from my semi-retired torpor.”
Richard Vaughan-Davies; Tangle of Red Tape Strangling Enterprise; Daily Post (Liverpool, UK); May 9, 2007.

invective (in-VEK-tiv)

noun: an insulting or abusive criticism or expression

From Latin invehi (to attack with words), from invehere (to carry in). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wegh- (to go or to transport in a vehicle), which also gave us deviate, way, weight, wagon, vogue, vehicle, vector, envoy, trivial, and inveigh. Earliest documented use: 1430

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“The author does have some good points … but they get lost in a welter of invective and innuendo.”
Stephen Schecter; Singularly Peevish View of Canada; The Gazette (Montreal, Canada); Jul 22, 1995.

reticence (RE-tuh-sens)

noun: a reluctance to express one’s thoughts and feelings

From Latin reticere (to be silent), from re- (again, back), from tacere (to be silent). Earliest documented use: 1603

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“What distinguished Bates was his quietness, reticence, and emotional reserve. No towering rages for him or tirades of invective.”
Obituary of Sir Alan Bates; The Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Dec 29, 2003.

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