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These are the words you could find on this page:
Acerbic, Burlesque, Corral, Debutante, Evanescent, Exegesis, Fabulist, Fad, Firebrand, Gadfly, Illusory, Impunity, Lugubrious, Mogul, Monger, Patois, Protean, Thespian, Vandal, Vapid

Acerbic [adj. ah-SUR-bik]
Acerbic means sharp or nasty in temper, expression, or character. A harshly cruel person, especially one who is prone to making scathing or vitriolic comments, could be described as acerbic. Example: "His acerbic remarks prompted the others to vote him off the island."
The adjective acerbic can also describe something that has a sour or astringent taste. Near synonyms of this sense include: acrid, bitter, and harsh.
This word has been in use in English since the 1860s. It is from the Latin acerbus (unripe, bitterly harsh).
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Burlesque [n., adj., v. bur-LESK]
A literary or dramatic piece that mocks the serious or ridicules the frivolous is burlesque. Burlesque relies on exaggerated treatment of its subject. Something silly may be treated with the utmost seriousness or a serious point may be mocked with ridiculous levity in burlesque. Near synonyms include farce, satire, caricature, parody, travesty, and mockery.
Burlesque can also mean a stage show featuring comic scenes (usually relying on bawdy humor) and striptease.
The word can be used as a noun (as above), as an adjective (involving ludicrous treatment of a solemn subject), or as a verb (to ridicule by mocking representation or imitation).
Burlesque came to English via the French in the 17th century. The French word is derived from the Italian burlesco, from burla (jest, joke).
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Corral [n. or v. ku-RAHL]
A corral is an enclosure, stockade, or pen used to contain horses or cattle. It can also be the circling of covered wagons for defense against attack.
The verb corral has two meanings as well. The first is to confine or gather something up as if in a corral. Near synonyms of this sense include enclose, mass, and fence in.
In the informal form of the verb, found mainly in the United States, corral means to seize or capture. Near synonyms include collar, secure, apprehend, and trap. Example: "He wanted to corral all the suspects so that he could question them together."
Corral came into the English language in the late 1500s from Latin, via the Spanish. Its root is the Vulgar Latin currale (enclosure) which is derived from the Latin word currus (wagon).
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Debutante [n. DEB-yoo-tahnt]
A debutante is a young woman making her first official appearance in high society, or a young woman of high social rank who attends a number of social events in a season (the season of her "coming out") as a way of being introduced to other young people in the same class.
The word debutante can also be used figuratively to mean a person who is new to a situation or activity.
Debutante is derived from the French verb debuter (to make one's first appearance). The word has been used in English since about 1800.
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Evanescent [adj. ev-uh-NESS-unt]
Evanescent means lasting only a short time or tending to become imperceptible. It can also describe something that fades away and is quickly forgotten. Near synonyms include fleeting, transient, and fugacious. Example: "The beauty of a sunset is evanescent. It is soon replaced by the moon and stars of the nighttime sky."
Evanescent is a Latin word, a conjugation of the Latin verb evanescere (to vanish). It's been in use in English since the mid-1700s. The English word vanish, which shares the same root, was first introduced into English between 1275 and 1325.
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Exegesis [n. ek-suh-GEE-sis]
An exegesis is an explanation or interpretation of a text made after careful study. This exposition is meant to help determine the intended meaning of the original text.
While the word exegesis used to apply mostly to the study of the Bible in Judaism and Christianity, academic writers now interpret all sorts of texts. Their reading or version of the source material is their exegesis.
First used in English in the early 1600s, this noun is from Greek. Exegesis (interpretation) was related to exegeisthai (to show the way, interpret) from the word hegesthai (to guide).
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Fabulist [n. FAB-yuh-list]
If someone calls you a fabulist, it may or may not be a compliment. Fabulists are people who invent fables or relate legends, admired for their storytelling. These stories often teach important lessons.
But a fabulist can also be a liar, someone who creates falsehoods. Example: "Peter had such a reputation as a fabulist that no one believed him when he said he had seen a wolf."
Fabulist is from the Middle French and entered English in the late 1500s. It is ultimately derived from the Latin fabula (fable). Fabula is also the root word for the English words fable (myth or legend) and fabulous (almost impossible to believe).
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Fad [n. FAD]
A fad is a fashion or manner of conduct that is only popular for a short period of time. It is usually enthusiastically followed by a group of people while it is popular. Example: "She could remember when poodle skirts were the fad among her friends."
Fad is a word from the early 1800s. It originally meant to look after things or to busy oneself with trifles. It was derived from the verb faddle, meaning to play with a child.
Near synonyms of the contemporary sense include: craze, rage, fancy, fashion, vogue, and mania.
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Firebrand [n. FIRE-brand]
Literally, a firebrand is a piece of burning wood or other material. In the 13th century, firebrands were placed in the fire and then used for light or as weapons.
It wasn't until the 14th century that the more figurative sense of firebrand came into use. Someone who kindles mischief or encourages unrest is a firebrand. A firebrand can also be someone who aggressively promotes a cause.
Near synonyms include: agitator, troublemaker, incendiary, instigator, insurgent, rabble-rouser, and revolutionary.
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Gadfly [n. GAD-fly]
A gadfly is a person who is persistently annoying, or who goads others (often with provocative criticism). Near synonyms include pest, nuisance, pain, and bother.
A gadfly is also a generic term for any of the various flies that bite and bother horses, livestock, or cattle.
Gadfly was first seen in English in the late 1500s. The gad portion of the name is ultimately derived from the prehistoric Germanic gazdaz, which meant a pointed stick or sharp chisel.
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Illusory [adj. e-LOO-sah-ree or e-LOO-zuh-ree]
Illusory means causing an illusion or like an illusion. It can also mean deceptive, misleading, imagined, or false. Example: "Having discovered his success was illusory, the star regretted having turned his back on family and old friends."
Illusory has been in the English language since the late 1500s. It is from the Late Latin illusorious which was derived from the Latin illudere (to mock, ridicule).
Near synonyms include: ethereal, dreamlike, false, delusive, imaginary, and unreal.
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Impunity [n. im-PYOO-ni-tee]
Impunity is exemption from punishment, harm, or loss. To act illegally or immorally with impunity means to escape the negative consequences -- to get away with it. Example: "He knew his mother would never say a word against him, so he said and did whatever he wanted with impunity."
This noun dates back to the 16th century, and is derived from the Latin impunitas, from poena (punishment), from the Greek poine (penalty). Poine is also the root for English words such as pain, penal (prescribing punishment), and punish (to inflict a penalty).
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Lugubrious [adj. lu-GOO-bree-us or lu-GYOO-bree-us]
If you were to see someone looking lugubrious you might suggest that they smile or at least stop and ask them "what is the matter?" Someone looking or acting lugubrious is mournful, dismal, or gloomy. Quite often their sorrow seems exaggerated or affected.
Near synonyms of this adjective include: doleful, sorrowful, sad, and melancholy. Example: "His mother was starting to worry, he had been looking lugubrious ever since Esther broke up with him."
Lugubrious has been describing gloomy countenances since the 16th century. The word is from the Latin lugubris (mournful) which is akin to the verb lugere (to mourn).
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Mogul [n. MOE-gul]
A mogul is a powerful person with great wealth or influence, or an important person in a particular field. Example: "Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is grooming his son to succeed him in the family business."
Mogul is capitalized when it refers to a member of a dynasty of Muslim rulers that dominated Northern India from the 16th to the early 18th century. This dynasty was known for its great leaders, which prompted the 16th century English association of mogul with a person of power. Mogul is from the Persian mughul (mongol).
Near synonyms include: magnate, potentate, personage, bigwig, tycoon, and heavyweight.
Moguls are also bumps on ski hills, but this noun is derived from the German mugel (small hills).
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Monger [n. or v. MUNG-gur or MAHNG-gur]
A monger was once a dealer, broker, or trader in a particular commodity. This use of the word dates back to before 1000 when the English developed the word mangere (to trade) from the Latin mango (salesman). Even today, the British may describe someone as a fishmonger or cheesemonger.
However, the more widespread use of monger nowadays refers to someone who promotes a harmful activity or attempts to spread something that is discreditable. A person who is involved in something petty or contemptible is a monger. Usually the word is combined with the despicable act. Examples include: gossipmonger, warmonger, rumormonger, or fearmonger.
The verb monger means to sell or to hawk goods.
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Patois [n. pa-TWAH or PAT-wah.] pl. patois [pa-TWAH or PAT-wahz]
Patois is a form of language distinct to a particular region and lacking in literary tradition, or a creole. The word sometimes carries a negative connotation, suggesting that the speakers are uneducated. Example: "Ted's study of French served him well when travelling in the major cities, but barely understood a word of the patois spoken in some of the villages."
Patois, a French word, most often describes a rural or provincial form of speech, but the meaning has been broadened to encompass other jargons as well. Near synonyms include cant, argot, idiom, and lingo.
Introduced into English between 1635 and 1645, patois is akin to the Old French patoier (to handle clumsily). It is thought to come from the Old French pate (paw).
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Protean [adj. PRO-tee-un or pro-TEE-un]
Protean means easily able to change shape or form. Near synonyms include versatile, changeable, polymorphous, and multiform. Example: "The comic book heroine never knew what she was up against when fighting her protean foe Silly Putty-man."
In a theatrical sense, a protean actor is an extremely versatile person who can readily assume different characters. This adjective is particularly apt when an actor takes on varied roles within the same production.
Protean is capitalized when it refers specifically to the Greek god Proteus. This ancient sea god was noted for his ability to take on different forms. It was from his name that the word protean was derived.
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Thespian [adj. or n. THES-pe-uhn]
The adjective thespian suggests something of or relating to the theater. Example: "His thespian efforts were a side project; his real job was waiting tables."
Thespian also describes something specifically relating to the work of Thespis, a Greek playwright from the sixth century B.C. He is remembered as the inventor of Greek tragedy (although none of his plays have survived) so thespian can also mean pertaining to tragedy. The word was first seen in English in the late 17th century.
The noun thespian means an actor or actress. Near synonyms of this sense include actor, performer, player, and trouper.
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Vandal [n. VAN-dl]
Someone who destroys or defaces public or private property either willfully or ignorantly is a vandal. Near synonyms include: wrecker, saboteur, hooligan, delinquent, plunderer, looter, destroyer, and pillager.
The first vandals were a Germanic tribe, which in 455 A.D. sacked Rome. While this was perhaps the pinnacle of their destructive behaviors, the Vandals earned a reputation as destroyers of civilization for looting and sacking during this period.
The word vandal appears in English in the mid-1500s. It commemorates the Vandals whose name was from the Late Latin vandalus, likely a Latinized tribal name derived from the word wanderer.
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Vapid [adj. VAP-id]
Vapid means lacking in imagination or interest, or devoid of spirit or animation. Near synonyms include dull, boring, sterile, inane, and tedious. Example: "Even before the appetizer was served, Sue had grown tired of her date's vapid conversation."
Vapid can also mean lacking in sharpness or flavor. Near synonyms of this sense include flat, tasteless, and stale.
This word is from the Latin vapidus, which is akin to the Latin vapor (steam). It first appeared in English in the mid-17th century.
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