Focus on learning some of the most popularly used difficult-but-common words in the English language. The objective here is to familiarize yourself with the most common senses of the difficult words you are most likely to come across.
Opulent: having wealth and luxury
e.g. Now that he had filed for bankruptcy, it would be difficult for him to maintain his opulent lifestyle.
Insolent: rude and disrespectful
e.g. He was simply offering his advice out of goodwill, but your response was insolent and inappropriate.
Malleable: easily adaptable or changeable
e.g. In this economic environment, people are malleable to economic reforms.
Emanate: come from a source
e.g. The sounds emanating from next door were so disturbing that we finally called the police.
Flaunt: to show off in an ostentatious way
e.g. Nobody likes her because she is always flaunting her wealth in her jewels and her furs.
Homage: high respect or honor
e.g. Even the Queen paid homage to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country.
Contrition: sadness or remorse over past wrong actions
e.g. The judge gave him the maximum sentence because he showed no contrition even when confronted by his victims.
Baneful: harmful or destructive influence
e.g. The custody of the children was taken from the parents because of the baneful influence of their lifestyle on their children.
Fledging: young and inexperienced.
e.g. As a fledging reporter, he was quite nervous when he interviewed the President.
Catch-22: an impossible situation, a predicament
e.g. He found himself in a catch-22: he could not stay, but he did not have the means to leave.
Debacle: a complete failure
e.g. The bailout, to many, was a financial debacle.
Oblique: indirect or unclear.
e.g. The young man’s testimony was oblique to be of any use as a witness for the police.
Consternation: sudden amazement.
e.g. The plunge of the Dow Jones Industrial Average caused a great deal of consternation in the financial markets worldwide.
Incorrigible: incapable of being reformed (often used in a lighthearted, ironic sense).
e.g. You’re incorrigible, forever getting into scrapes and causing mischief.
Elucidate: explain in full or make clear
e.g. To throw more light on the issue, the President began to elucidate his statement.
Cumbersome: hard to manage, or troublesome
e.g. The task of tidying up the entire basement is not only exhaustive but also cumbersome to a nine-year-old kid.
Incognito: hidden or unknown with the purpose of intentionally changing appearance.
e.g. Many movie stars wear dark sunglasses in hopes of remaining incognito at public places.
Nether: lower, such as the nether regions of something are the parts that lie beneath or beyond the main part.
e.g. Dante takes the reader on a journey to the nether regions of hell.
Clandestine: secretive or kept hidden from authorities.
e.g. Nowadays, terrorists may use the Internet for their clandestine communication with one another.
Déjà vu (pronounced as day-zhuh VOO): (French) something “already seen” in the past.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau