Are you smarter than a 10th grader? Test your knowledge of these must-know vocabulary terms, from their definitions to their origins. They're bound to show up on many sophomore vocabulary study lists.
If something is anecdotal, it is not necessarily true or reliable because it is based on personal accounts (stories) rather than hard facts. For example, “The evidence of a UFO sighting was merely anecdotal. There were few facts to back up his story.”
It can also describe a piece of writing that contains many anecdotes (stories), as in, “Her anecdotal memoir gave a rare glimpse into her private life off stage.” The word “anecdote” comes from the Greek anekdota, meaning “things unpublished.” The sixth-century book Anecdota by Procopius was a collection of Emperor Justinian’s unpublished stories about court gossip, which helped connect the word “anecdote” with a “revelation of secrets,” as it is sometimes used today in gossipy contexts.
The word “dubious” has been around since the mid-16th century, when it was fittingly derived from the Latin dubius, or “doubtful.” Today, it indicates a level of hesitation or uncertainty. For example, “He appeared dubious as he stepped up to the podium.” The descriptor can also mean “unreliable or of questionable value.” For example, “The suspect was known to partake in dubious affairs,” meaning that they participated in activities that were morally suspect.
An impetus is a driving force that makes something happen (or happen more quickly). For example, an incident of social injustice can be an impetus for change, or an earthquaker can be the impetus that drives a disaster movie’s plot forward.
The modern definition of “impetus” is related to the Latin impetus, which had a few definitions, ranging from "an attack or assault" to "an impulse or a rapid motion," the latter of which is more closely related to the current usage.
To have ultimate power is to be omnipotent — think Superman, monarchs, and religious figures. In Latin, omnipotent directly translates to “all-powerful,” and many cultures and religions believe that their gods are omnipotent, with unlimited power. The word first became popular in Middle English to describe deities, and the word is still used in English to describe any entity with ultimate influence and power.
The modern definition of “poignant” is to evoke a keen sense of sadness, regret, or otherwise wistful emotion. For example, “The painting was a poignant reminder of her beloved grandmother.” An older version of the word has a slightly different definition: a sharp or pungent taste/smell, as in, “the poignant smell of stale beer.” “Poignant” has been around for centuries; it was a Middle English word that came from Latin pungere “to prick.”
If something is trite, it’s of little importance. A remark, an opinion, or an idea can be trite. especially if it is overused or unoriginal. “His trite remarks went largely unnoticed by the judge.” “Trite” has been used this way since the mid-16th century, but it was derived from the Latin tritus for something that is “worn or oft-trodden.”
To vindicate someone is to clear them of blame or suspicion, as in, “The charges were cleared — she felt vindicated.” Similarly, “vindicate” also means to show or prove that something is right or justified. “These findings vindicate the theory of ice on the moon.” In the mid-16th century, “vindicate” had a slightly different connotation, meaning to “deliver or rescue” from blame, or essentially, to liberate. It comes from Latin vindicare “to act as an avenger.”
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