Words That Make You Sound Smarter
Definition: Bitterness, especially in vocabulary or mannerisms
Example: The discussion began with such acrimony, it was clear to the lawyer this was going to be a tense contract negotiation.
Definition: consent without objection, even after previously objecting
Example: When the salesman realized he was going to lose the sale unless he threw in a free tire rotation that the customer wanted, he acquiesced.
Definition: being highly skilled or well trained in a particular discipline; an expert
Example: She's an adept graphic designer and was headhunted by a rival company.
Definition: excessive praise, admiration or flattery
Example: The adulation from thousands of excited fans faced by Justin Bieber would make most people uncomfortable, but he seems to enjoy it.
Definition: uncertainty when choosing between two options (often involving fluctuating or contradictory emotions)
Example: Sienna knew she had to make a decision, but she just felt ambivalent, so she flipped a coin.
Definition: abnormality, often a red flag that there may be a greater issue
Example: Jennifer found an anomaly in the profit projections that proved to be evidence of embezzlement.
Definition: unorthodox, experimental or progressive work in any field (usually relating to the arts) or the group who forwards the concept (Tim Burton or E.E. Cummings)
Example: The new ad agency's concept may be too avant-garde for our more traditional image.
Definition: obvious or self-evident; based on one or more axioms
Example: It's axiomatic that great salespeople have solid communication skills.
9. Bourgeois/bourgeoisification/ bourgeoisify
Definition: striving for but lacking the sophistication of the ultra rich while also lacking the "authenticity" of the working class (often a pejorative term in the U.S.)
Example: The bourgeois attitude of modern culture has changed how many high-end retailers do business.
Definition: devious and surreptitious operation
Example: Lauren's high personal ethics made it difficult for her to work for such a byzantine company, so she tendered her resignation.
Definition: harsh, dissonant sounds
Example: The sudden sound of a cell phone only added to the cacophony of the boardroom executives' heated shouting.
Definition: to stop fighting or surrender (as in a social battle or negotiation)
Example: The CEO refused to capitulate to Terry's salary demands, so she tendered her resignation.
Definition: a lose-lose paradox in which the only solution to problem is prevented by circumstance or often a means of entrapment or political maneuvering (from the novel of the same name)
Example: Anushka's boss presented her with a catch-22 — she couldn't work another shift without a doctor's sign-off, but couldn't afford another doctor's appointment without a paycheck.
Definition: disdainful or unceremonious
Example: His cavalier attitude toward customers made the manager wonder if he had any respect for others.
Definition: something or a combination of things that's so odd or improbable that it shouldn't logically exist, but does
Example: The software suite of billing and graphic design software was a chimera, but the company managed to sell enough units to make a profit.
Definition: something done in secret, usually with a hidden or nefarious agenda
Example: The president had to fire her vice president when she found out he was making clandestine deals with the competition.
Definition: well-reasoned, logical and compelling
Example: Riya's points were well founded, but her inability to present a cogent argument left the stockholders wondering if she was the right woman for the job.
Definition: a difficult problem
Example: Jackie was charged with solving the shipping conundrum before the company lost money.
Definition: partiality to one's friends, often evidenced by favors or promotions they don't deserve or are unqualified for
Example: The boss' cronyism became apparent when he appointed his fraternity brother's deadbeat son as vice president.
Definition: to precisely describe or outline
Example: To ensure things ran smoothly, the team moved to the conference room to delineate their plan on the whiteboard before beginning the project.
Definition: to stray or depart (from a standard, course of action or the norm)
Example: If you deviate from your customer's expectations, they may buy from competitors who offer a more consistent experience.
Definition: a division into two parts, often contradictory or mutually exclusive
Example: By attempting to work half an hour on the production line, the president only further illustrated the dichotomy that exists between executives and factory workers in our company.
Definition: to disturb, upset or confuse, as in demeanor or plans
Example: Salma was disconcerted by the accountant's sudden outburst during the meeting, but quickly recovered.
Definition: to deprive someone of a privilege or right
Example: Regardless of how hard their jobs are, the factory workers found it difficult to feel disenfranchised while working for a company.
Definition: to spread or disperse
Example: Celebrities have it rough these days, because the internet makes it easy and fast to disseminate rumors about their misdeeds.
Definition: disclose or reveal private or secret information
Example: Phishing scams are emails sent by spammers in an attempt to get you to divulge your banking or other private information.
Definition: a belief in the equality of all people (especially political, economic or social)
Example: Self-help groups succeed based on egalitarian principles — Charlie Sheen is no different than Joe Schmo.
Definition: to deprive of strength or spirit (often associated with male procreative power)
Example: Adding a provision that prohibits managers from reviewing the contents of company-paid cell phones effectively emasculates the rule against doing personal business on company time.
Definition: a disease or condition restricted to a particular area or department
Example: There's an endemic of petty theft from the third floor supply closet.
Definition: discontent related to boredom or lack of interest
Example: We created an iPad app to fight the ennui that children feel when accompanying Mom on errands.
Definition: discriminating or sophisticated tastes
Example: To appeal to customers with more epicurean tastes, our company uses only the freshest, organic ingredients from local farmers.
Definition: difficult to understand except by a chosen few; an interest that's special or rare
Example: When conversing with clients, be careful of esoteric, industry-specific terms.
Definition: not worth keeping or maintaining; something you can sacrifice (usually for the greater good)
Example: Xenia worked hard and always carefully researched things to ensure her employer knew she wasn't expendable.
Definition: to produce or create (in manufacturing); manufactured (with regard to facts), fake or untrue; imitation
Example: To get his boss to her surprise retirement party, Jamal fabricated a story involving angry clients and a meeting at her favorite restaurant.
Definition: playful (sometimes inappropriate) humor
Example: The manager often made facetious remarks to his subordinates, but took on a more serious demeanor in front of the company bigwigs.
Definition: critical; demanding; difficult to please
Example: The best customer service representatives can please even the most fastidious customers if they're willing to listen.
Definition: a total failure; a complicated situation that ends in failure
Example: My suit was wrinkled, my business cards got soaked in the rain and when I left, I found a huge piece of spinach in my teeth — the whole thing was a total fiasco.
Definition: to propel a person or people into activity or inspiration
Example: Gina gave a rousing victory speech, galvanizing her campaign volunteers to stay active on social media long after the election was over.
Definition: a remark or tactic used to redirect a conversation or seek an advantage
Example: Elena began to cry, but the officer was used to that gambit and gave her a ticket anyway.
Definition: anything political affecting the relationships or two or more countries
Example: Many people blame rising gasoline costs on geopolitical instability in the Middle East.
Definition: pertaining to the pursuit of pleasure or blatant self-gratification
Example: The Lonely Island's parody "I'm on a Boat" is a commentary on the hedonistic lifestyle glamorized by many modern music videos.
Definition: flawless; free from or incapable of fault or blame
Example: While he liked Kyle's more adventurous designs, the boss decided to put Kaylie, whose impeccable code is more reliable, in charge of the website.
Definition: penetrating, biting or remarkably clear (tone, words, etc.)
Example: Dan tried to counter the damaging points made by the defense attorney, but in the end, her points were too incisive and the jury sided with the defendant.
Definition: lacking in manners or good taste; tactless
Example: Juno indelicately remarked to the obese woman, "you shouldn't be drinking if you're pregnant!"
Definition: so small it can't be measured
Example: The effect of the change to the cheaper formula was so infinitesimal, it was hardly worth mentioning.
Definition: treacherous or deceitful (often related to entrapment)
Example: Email spammers who attempt to impersonate your friends are particularly insidious.
Definition: place two items close together and side by side (often referring to objects that may at first seem to be in opposition or contrast)
Example: To illustrate her point about how far the company had come, Mary juxtaposed the image of the company's original product with the modern version.
Definition: to stop something
Example: Mom quickly put the kibosh on Bobbie's plans to wear a skimpy dress to prom.
Definition: to exert influence on to gain the desired effect (in business)
Example: A buyer can limit the leverage of the seller if she doesn't seem desperate.
Definition: a long list or recital (of excuses, reasons, etc.)
Example: Meagan had a litany of excuses for her miscalculation — many were valid, some were not.
Definition: tactics that are cunning, often deceptive, in which the end result is more important than morality
Example: Diana's Machiavellian attempts to get her coworker Michael fired weren't well received by his friends.
Definition: to flow or sound sweet or smooth
Example: Peggy was nervous about her speech, but her mellifluous words brought the crowd to their feet.
Definition: a professional soldier often hired by a foreign army; motivated by profit rather than loyalty
Example: Brianna left the DA's office to become a mercenary of sorts — she began providing consultations on how to survive a cross-examination by the DA.
Definition: volatile or erratic; fickle; flighty, animated or lively (often quick-witted)
Example: The lead singer's mercurial nature was well loved by fans and the media, but loathed by his bandmates.
Definition: the incorrect or an unsuitable name (not a misunderstanding or popular misconception)
Example: Calling that dog sweet pea is a misnomer; he just bit me!
Definition: a novice; beginner
Example: Layla may be a neophyte, but you'd never know by looking at her sales numbers.
57. Non sequitur
Definition: a response that doesn't logically follow the statement it follows
Example: After Nan pointed out that the stock prices were dropping, Melanie interrupted with a total non sequitur by saying, "Who wants lunch?"
Definition: to talk or write about a subject in such a way as to make it unclear or hide the full truth
Example: Olivia attempted to obfuscate her husband's surprise party by telling him they were going to his favorite restaurant because she'd snagged a Groupon.
Definition: extremely showy; loud
Example: Guy Fieri is the Food Network's most ostentatious celebrity chef.
Definition: cure-all; magic elixir (usually not literal in modern English)
Example: E-learning isn't a panacea for all educational issues; we still require teachers to direct a child's learning, even over the internet.
Definition: superior, supreme
Example: The issue of paramount importance is whether the baby is healthy. Everything else is something we can deal with.
Definition: skim, review
Example: Alexis was annoyed when Dan only perused the document before declaring her work unimpressive.
Definition: a person who is lacking in or hostile toward accepted cultural values or social refinement
Example: You don't like Shiraz? You philistine!
Definition: highly controversial
Example: The prostate cancer awareness advertisements featuring male celebrities in the buff (with only their key parts covered) is polemic, but effective.
Definition: natural tendency, disposition
Example: Trying to curb her proclivity for micromanagement, Diamond gave her employee carte blanche on the first draft of the proposal.
Definition: to seek and gain ownership of something
Example: Michelle was able to procure a computer that was able to read a floppy disk.
Definition: the authority to represent someone else in an official capacity
Example: Rosalida acted as a proxy, paying the bills and taking care of her siblings while her mother took a month-long business trip.
68. Quid pro quo
Definition: something given for something taken (you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours)
Example: Jazmin and Nathan had a quid pro quo arrangement — she took his desk near her friend and he got her desk near the girl he has a crush on.
Definition: a perfect example or the pure essence of something
Example: Having learned to cook from her mother, who's from Cabo San Lucas, Lisa had confidence she could open the quintessential Mexican restaurant in the states.
Definition: pursuing a seemingly unreachable or ambitious goal; idealist, impractical or both
Example: Dawn's quixotic vision paid off when, to her boss's surprise, her formula worked.
Definition: results, consequences or implications
Example: As she drove back to work, Catriona was nervous about the ramifications of losing her company's biggest client.
72. Red herring
Definition: something intended to divert attention from the actual problem or situation
Example: To prevent the competition from knowing what they were really working on, the tech company introduced a red herring in the form of a false rumor.
Definition: a clever or witty response
Example: Emily's sparkling rejoinders made her popular with the group very quickly.
Definition: reluctant to speak or speak freely (often confused with reluctant, which means unwilling)
Example: Laura was reticent on the subject of her children because her son is in jail.
Definition: the effective use of speech, especially that which is exaggerated to make a potentially erroneous point
Example: Despite the fact that Leslie agreed with Tom's analysis, she distanced herself from his over-the-top rhetoric.
Definition: abundant, abounding; prevalent
Example: The store was rife with customers, so the manager was forced to open a new register.
Definition: to think about something thoroughly and in great detail
Example: Elysia ruminated about her hiring decision for several days before choosing raw talent over experience.
Definition: accepting even negative circumstances with a positive attitude
Example: While it would make her job more difficult, Theresa was sanguine when she was told she'd have to complete the project a week earlier than expected.
Definition: sternly disciplined, rigorously simple, frugal or austere
Example: He made plenty of money, yet lead a Spartan lifestyle in his 600-square-foot apartment and drove an early model Honda Civic to work each day.
Definition: a loyal and reliable member or supporter
Example: Even after she retired as librarian, Pearl remained a stalwart supporter of local book drives.
Definition: free from passion, including happiness and grief (think Spock)
Example: Ebony attempted to remain stoic as her boss explained why she was being let go.
Definition: a new level of quality or perfection; unduplicated
Example: The chef's food was so sublime, the harshest critic in the area came back once a week for the rest of his life.
Definition: excessive, unnecessary or needless; extra
Example: To make extra space on her hard drive, Doreen asked the technician to eliminate the superfluous files.
Definition: a person who controls or dominates another, usually with selfish motives (from evil hypnotist character in Maurier's Trilby)
Example: Raven knew Michael was far too caring and submissive to be the Svengali her coworkers portrayed him to be.
Definition: a brownnoser; someone who flatters others in an attempt to serve their own interests
Example: Jenny realized she'd misjudged her boss when her hard work got her the promotion over the lazy sycophant she was up against.
Definition: a partnership or combination that works well to the advantage of both
Example: The goal of the Apple TV is to create synergy between your various Apple devices: iPhone, iPad and iMac or MacBook.
Definition: equivalent in significance or effect, though not identical
Example: The public relations head told us that saying anything that could make people stop buying our products is tantamount to stealing.
Definition: unsubstantiated or weak
Example: The link between the appetizer and entree was tenuous, though both were executed beautifully.
Definition: a private conversation between two people
Example: After the board meeting, the marketing director was called aside for a tête-à-tête with the president, making the entire marketing team nervous.
Definition: present everywhere; everywhere at once
Example: Try as competitors might, the iPhone has become ubiquitous.
Definition: indefensible, usually in relation to a difficult or impossible situation
Example: Aliyah was in an untenable position; she couldn't keep telling the employees to cut costs while staying in five-star hotels on business trips.
Definition: suave, sophisticated, refined; being or appearing to be high-society
Example: Even in a low-end suit from last season, Claudia struck all she met as urbane.
Definition: to go back and forth between two points
Example: Nina vacillated between the lamb and fish for so long, her friends just ordered for her.
Definition: probable or realistic; the appearance of truth
Example: The ad campaign has a certain verisimilitude that customers seem to identify with.
Definition: able to perform a variety of tasks; adaptable
Example: A versatile employee, Kim is just as comfortable troubleshooting software as she is making sales.
Definition: to do or feel on behalf of another
Example: Kat can't stay away from celebrity news; she lives vicariously through the Kardashians.
Definition: insistent and inflexible
Example: Eva was so vehement that the salespeople would follow up with customers within two days of dropping off the proposal; anyone who didn't would be fired.
Definition: a metaphor for an individual's area of comfort or expertise (in business)
Example: Sandra, whose degree was in accounting, was asked to calculate the team's sales projections because that type of work is in her wheelhouse.
98. White elephant
Definition: something that costs more to keep or maintain than it's actually worth
Example: Because of the constant discounts we have to give to move this product, I think it's a white elephant. We should consider discontinuing it.
Definition: a young person who succeeds, usually in business
Example: After creating Facebook while in college, wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg recently married the love of his life.
Definition: enthusiastic, often to the point of fanatical
Example: Penelope's zealous chatter about her cats was a real turnoff to her coworkers.