Powerful Words Study Guide

Updated on Sep 21, 2011

Powerful Words

In this study guide, you'll learn some words that carry extra punch. They deliver a lot of meaning and power all by themselves. They're noteworthy for their efficiency: they condense complicated thoughts into single words. Use these words when you want to avoid the circumlocutions and redundancies—those bad speaking and writing habits you learned about in the previous lesson. All the words in this lesson are adjectives, the most versatile part of speech. As you learn these new adjectives, stop to think about how many additional words it might take to convey the meaning of just one well-chosen adjective.


Words with extra power convey complicated meanings in a small space, an ideal goal for anyone seeking true vocabulary breadth and power.

Words with Extra Power

1. cacophonous. Describes loud, confusing, and disagreeable sound or noise. My parents consider my favorite hip hop music nothing but cacophonous noise.
2. demure. Modest, reserved, and even shy. Cinderella is a classic example of a demure young woman.
3. esoteric. Understood by or meant for only the special few who have private or secret knowledge. The study of prehistoric fish is quite an esoteric field, but one that is truly fascinating.
4. feminist. Refers to the philosophy or political doctrine that holds that social, political, and all other rights of women should be equal to those of men. The feminist movement has continued its struggle over the past 150 years to gain equal rights for women.
5. glib. Said of speaking or writing that is fluent and smooth, but is also superficial and shows little preparation or sincere concern. The candidate's glib responses to all the reporter's questions made me suspicious about her real qualifications for office.
6. ironic. Seeking to communicate a meaning that is actually the opposite of its literal meaning; a contradiction between what is said and what is meant. The story's title, A Happy Ending, was clearly ironic since almost all the characters were disappointed or dead by the end.
7. obsequious. Acting submissive and flattering to someone perceived to be more powerful. In my math class, there is one obsequious boy who is always trying to win favor with the teacher; he figures he can do less work if he becomes the teacher's pet.
8. ominous. Threatening, or seeming to promise evil or harm. Our teacher's ominous suggestion that we should get a good night's sleep before our next test scared us into studying harder.
9. pompous. Puffed up with vanity and pretending to be grand and elegant. The political candidate lost the race because of his huge promises and pompous speeches that voters felt were insincere.
10. sadistic. Finding pleasure in being cruel. Billy, our class bully, was feared because of his sadistic delight in making fun of weaker boys.
11. sardonic. Ironically humorous; sarcastically mocking. Homer Simpson is a sardonic husband, making fun of his wife and kids all the time.
12. sophisticated. Worldly wise, educated, and experienced. A student with a sophisticated vocabulary is assured easier essay writing as well as higher grades.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Powerful Words Practice Exercises

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