Learning words.

Whilst growing up and learning English in Malta, my dad told me to write down words I come across I didn’t understand. Later in the day, we’d look them up in the dictionary. The first word I came across(aged 6) was ‘mischievous’.

I still do the same exercise now but with Google in tow.

Abhorrent adjective
If something is abhorrent to you, you hate it very much or consider it completely unacceptable.
Synonyms: hateful, hated, offensive, disgusting

Acolytes noun

Affront verb
If something affronts you, you feel insulted and hurt because of it.
Synonyms: insult, wrong, injury, abuse

Aggrandise verb
To aggrandise someone means to increase the power, wealth, prestige, scope, make them seem richer and more important than they really are.
Synonyms: exaggerate, advance, promote, intensify

Aggregate verb
If amounts or things are aggregated, they are added together and considered as a single amount or thing.
Synonyms: combine, mix, collect, assemble, add

Alacrity noun
If you do something with alacrity, you do it quickly and eagerly.
Synonyms: eagerness, enthusiasm, willingness, readiness

Alienable adjective

Anthropology noun
The study of humans, their origins, physical characteristics, institutions, religious beliefs, social relationships etc.

Anticipate verb

Antithetical adjective

Artifice noun

Astute adjective

Attest verb
To attest something or attest to something means to say, show, or prove that it is true.
Synonyms: testify, show, prove, confirm

Attrition noun

Audacity noun

Awry adjective
If something goes awry, it does not happen in the way it was planned.
Synonyms: askew, twisted, crooked, to one side

Alienable adjective
Capable of being alienated or transferred to a new owner.
Synonyms: transfer, conveyance.

Anecdoche noun
A conversation in which everyone is talking but nobody is listening.

Benign adjective
You use benign to describe someone who is kind, gentle, and harmless or a substance or process that does not have any harmful effects.
Synonyms: benevolent, kind, kindly, warm or harmless, innocent, superficial, innocuous

Belie verb

Benevolence noun

Bereft adjective
If a person or thing is bereft of something, they no longer have it.

Beset verb
If someone or something is beset by problems or fears, they have many problems or fears which affect them severely.
Synonyms: plague, trouble, embarrass, torture

Bespeak verb

Betoken verb

Bludgeon verb
To bludgeon someone means to hit them several times with a heavy object. If someone bludgeons you into doing something, they make you do it by behaving aggressively.
Synonyms: club, batter, beat, strike, bully, force, intimidate

Brazen adjective

Broach verb
When you broach a subject, especially a sensitive one, you mention it in order to start a discussion on it.
Synonyms: bring up, approach, introduce, mention

Byword noun

Circumspect adjective


Cognoscenti noun

Coerce verb

Concision noun

Conduct noun + verb

Conjecture noun
A conclusion that is based on information that is not certain or complete. 
Synonyms: guess, theory, fancy, notion

Conjecture verb
When you form an opinion or reach a conclusion on the basis of information that is not certain or complete.
Synonyms: guess, speculate, surmise, theorise

Conscientious adjective
Someone who is conscientious is very careful to do their work properly.
Synonyms: thorough, particular, careful, exact

Consternation noun

Consummate verb + adjective

Contagious adjective

Contentious adjective
A contentious issue causes a lot of disagreement or arguments.
Synonyms: argumentative, wrangling, perverse, bickering

Contingency noun

Courteous adjective

Courtesy noun

Cybernetics noun
The branch of science concerned with control systems in electronic and mechanical devices and the extent to which useful comparisons can be made between man-made and biological systems.

Dependence noun

Dialectic noun
The art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions.
Synonyms: reasoning, argumentation, contention, logic

Dialectic adjective

Discretion noun

Discursive adjective
If a style of writing is discursive, it includes a lot of facts or opinions that are not necessarily relevant.
Synonyms: digressive, loose, rambling, roundabout

Disparate adjective
Disparate things are clearly different from each other in quality or type. A disparate thing is made up of very different elements.
Synonyms: different, contrasting, unlike, contrary

Dissent noun

Dissimulation noun

Divest verb
If you divest yourself of something that you own or are responsible for, you get rid of it or stop being responsible for it. If something or someone is divested of a particular quality, they lose that quality or it is taken away from them.
Synonyms: strip, remove, take off, undress

Divine adjective

Divine noun

Docile adjective
A person or animal that is docile is quiet, not aggressive, and easily controlled.
Synonyms: obedient, manageable, compliant, amenable, submissive, easy to manage, control.

Doggedly adverb

Ellipsism noun
A sadness that you’ll never be able to know how history will turn out.

Eminence noun

Eminent adjective

Empathy noun
Empathy is the ability to share another person’s feelings and emotions as if they were your own.
Synonyms: understanding, feeling, appreciation, compassion

Endearing adjective
If you describe someone’s behaviour as endearing, you mean that it causes you to feel very fond of them.
Synonyms: attractive, winning, pleasing, appealing, esteem, charm

Erudite adjective

Excoriate verb
To excoriate a person or an organisation means to criticise them severely, usually in public.
Synonyms: abrade, attack, berate, skin, censure

Elucidate verb
If you elucidate something, you make it clear and easy to understand.
Synonyms: clarify, explain, illustrate, interpret

Ethnography noun
Ethnography is the branch of anthropology in which different cultures are studied and described.

Epistemological adjective

Equanimity noun
Equanimity is a calm state of mind and attitude to life, so that you never lose your temper or become upset.
Synonyms: composure, peace, calm, poise

Erudition noun

Eschew verb

Esteem noun

Esteem verb

Ethnography noun

Evasive adjective

Exacerbate verb

Fate noun
Fate is a power that some people believe controls and decides everything that happens, in a way that cannot be prevented or changed.
Synonyms: destiny, chance, fortune, luck

Fathom verb
Understand a difficult problem or an enigmatic person after much thought.
Synonyms: understand, comprehend, work out, make sense of, grasp

Feckless adjective
If you describe someone as feckless, you mean that they lack determination or strength, and are unable to do anything properly.
Synonyms: irresponsible, useless, hopeless, incompetent

Fixation noun

Forestall verb

Forlorn adjective

Gallant adjective

Gallant noun

Gallant verb

Gaumless/Gormless adjective
If you say that someone is gormless, you think that they are stupid because they do not understand things very well.
Synonyms: brainless, dense, dim, dim-witted, dopey, dumb, stupid

Gild noun

Gratitude noun

Habituate verb
If you habituate yourself or another person to something, you make yourself or them become used to it.
Synonyms: accustom, familiarise, train, coach, exercise

Heterogeneity noun

Holism noun
Holism is the belief that everything in nature is connected in some way.

Homogenise verb
If something is homogenised, it is changed so that all its parts are similar or the same, especially in a way that is undesirable.
Synonyms: unite, make uniform, combine, blend

Heuristic adjective
A heuristic method of learning involves discovery and problem-solving, using reasoning and past experience.
Synonyms: Trial-and-error

Idolise verb

Idyll noun

Ignominious adjective

Incessant adjective
An incessant process or activity is one that continues without stopping.
Synonyms: constant, endless, continuous, persistent, all the time

Incredulous adjective

Kenopsia noun
The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.

Lapse noun
A lapse is a moment or instance of bad behaviour by someone who usually behaves well.
Synonyms: decline, fall, drop, descent

Latent adjective
Latent is used to describe something which is hidden and not obvious at the moment, but which may develop further in the future.
Synonyms: hidden, secret, concealed, invisible

Laud verb
If people laud someone, they praise and admire them.
Synonyms: praise, celebrate, honour, acclaim

Lofty adjective

Loquacious adjective

Magnanimity noun

Malevolence noun

Malice noun

Mardy adjective

Mawkish adjective
You can describe something as mawkish when you think it is falsely sentimental and silly.
Synonyms: sentimental, emotional, feeble, mushy

Mediate verb
If someone mediates between two groups of people, or mediates an agreement between them, they try to settle an argument between them by talking to both groups and trying to find things that they can both agree to.
Synonyms: intervene, moderate, step in, intercede

Monachopsis noun
The subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.

Nefarious adjective
If you describe an activity as nefarious, you mean that it is wicked and immoral.
Synonyms: wicked, base, criminal, evil

Normative adjective
Normative means creating or stating particular rules of behaviour. Implying, creating or prescribing a norm or standard.
Synonyms: standardising, controlling, regulating, prescriptive

Nuance verb

Nuance noun

Obfuscation noun
The act or an instance of making something obscure, dark, or difficult to understand.
Synonyms: evasiveness, shuffling, deception, fudging

Occhiolism noun
The awareness of the smallness of your perspective in the scheme of the universe.

Ominous adjective

Opia noun
The ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel invasive and vulnerable at the same time — as if you were peering through a hole in the door of a house, able to tell that there’s someone standing there, but unable to tell if you’re looking in or looking out.

Overture noun
If you make overtures to someone, you behave in a friendly or romantic way towards them.
Synonyms: approach, offer, advance, proposal, invitation, proposition, opening move

Particularity noun
The particularity of something is its quality of being different from other things. The particularities of something are the features that make it different.
Synonyms: circumstance, fact, detail, point

Peaceable adjective

Pedagogy noun
Pedagogy is the study and theory of the methods and principles of teaching.

Pedantic adjective
If you think someone is pedantic, you mean that they are too concerned with unimportant details or traditional rules.
Synonyms: academic, pompous, schoolmasterly, stilted

Penitent adjective
Someone who is penitent is very sorry for something wrong that they have done, and regrets their actions.
Synonyms: repentant, sorry, apologetic, abject

Perturb verb

Pique noun
Pique is the feeling of annoyance you have when you think someone has not treated you properly.
Synonyms: resentment, offence, irritation, annoyance

Pithy adjective
A pithy comment or piece of writing is short, direct, and full of meaning.
Synonyms: succinct, pointed, short, brief

Plausible adjective

Politic adjective

Posteriori adverb

Pragmatic adjective
A pragmatic way of dealing with something is based on practical considerations, rather than theoretical ones. A pragmatic person deals with things in a practical way.
Synonyms: practical, efficient, sensible, realistic

Predilection verb

Pre-eminent adjective

Prodigious adjective

Proletariat noun
The proletariat is a term used to refer to all wage-earners collectively, workers without high status.
Synonyms: working class, the masses, lower classes, commoners

Proliferation noun
Rapid increase or growth in the number or amount of something.
Synonyms: generation, procreation, propagation, reproduction

Propensity noun
A propensity to do something or a propensity for something is a natural tendency that you have to behave in a particular way. A natural tendency or disposition.
Synonyms: tendency, leaning, weakness, inclination

Prudent adjective

Relativism noun
Relativism is the belief that the truth is not always the same but varies according to circumstances.

Repudiation noun

Resolute adjective
If you describe someone as resolute, you approve of them because they are very determined not to change their mind or not to give up a course of action.
Synonyms: determined, set, firm, dogged

Rue verb

Saccade noun
The movement of the eye when it makes a sudden change of fixation, as in reading.
Synonyms: jerk, move, jolt, motion, movement

Shrewd adjective

shun verb

Slight verb

Solicitous adjective
A person who is solicitous shows anxious concern for someone or something.
Synonyms: concerned, caring, attentive, careful

The realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Skirmish noun
A skirmish is a minor battle, a short, sharp argument.
Synonyms: argument, fight, row, clash

Spurn verb

Stoic noun

Stoic adjective

Subtlety noun

Supine adjective
If you are supine, you are lying flat on your back. If you describe someone as supine, you mean that they let events happen because they are too lazy or afraid to influence them.
Synonyms: flat, recumbent, lethargic, passive, lazy, idle

Swill verb
If you swill an alcoholic drink, you drink a lot of it. To swill out something means to clean it by pouring water over it.
Synonyms: drink, gulp, swig, guzzle, rinse, wash out, sluice, flush

Tether verb

Tether noun

Tizzy noun
A state of confusion, anxiety, or excitement.

Transience noun

Traverse verb
If someone or something traverses an area of land or water, they go across it. To pass or go over or back and forth over something.
Synonyms: cross, go across, travel over, make your way across

Ubiquitous adjective

Vacillate verb

Vanity noun

Venerate verb

Verbosity noun

Vexed adjective
A vexed problem or question is very difficult and causes people a lot of trouble.
Synonyms: controversial, disputed, contested, moot

Vice noun

Virtue noun

Most definitions are borrowed from Collins Dictionary’s clever ‘learner’ feature. The Sideways Dictionary inspired me to publish these. See also Mark Forsyth’s Ternion set.