An abridged dictionary

How to tell the real meaning of words you don't know.

When I'm reading, I hate to stop to look up unfamiliar words. Fortunately, I don't need to rely on a dictionary. I can figure out the meanings of words using my extraneous knowledge of English word roots, prefixes, and suffices.

I don't need to look up "salacious," for instance, because I immediately recognize that it refers to specially discounted prices, as in, "The Fourth of July is a salacious holiday." I quickly see that "strident" means walking with long steps and that a "barista" is a female lawyer. My perfidious knowledge of the English language enables me to deduct the meaning of any unfamiliar word. For example:

quotidian – a person fond of repeating the words of famous people

cellophane – past tense of "cellphone"

pro bono – a fan of the U2 lead singer

penultimate – the supreme writing instrument

cartographer – a photographer specializing in automobiles

shutterbug – a photographer specializing in insects

pretension – before stress

lassitude – demeanor of a young Scottish woman

gustatory – with brief surges of wind

photosynthesis – the act of combining pictures

yawl – southern term for sailboat

dreadnought – fear of the zero

idiomatic – a transmission suitable for the less-than-brilliant driver

autocrat – government official who regulates cars

plutocrat – government official responsible for canine cartoon characters and former planets

placebo – the site of a gazebo

utilitarian – an employee of the electric company

unctuous – having the characteristics of an uncle

Polynesia – the ability to remember everything

prolapsed – descended temporarily to amateur status

votive – democratic

oxymoron – hyperventilating dullard

commutation – act of traveling to and from work

ostracize – to shun large, flightless birds

promenade – a beverage served at square dances

gyroscope – an instrument for examining sandwiches

blunderbuss – a mass transit faux pas

polyphonic – owning several telephones

egress – female egret

• Dale Roberts, a college career counselor, lives in Asheville, N.C.

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