1.curtail (v.) Definition: shorten, reduce, lessen Origins: English “curtal” a horse with a short tail Example: You need to curtail your partying, or you will not pass your freshman year in college.
2. diffident (adj.) Definition: lacking self-confidence, timid, unassertive Origins: Latin “dis” or not and “fidere” trust – mistrustful later mistrust in oneself Example: Carrol was a rather diffident child; she rarely stepped forward in class to respond.
3. haggard (adj.) Definition: looking worn and tired Origins: English – “haggard” a wild hawk captured after it had already grown its mature feathers Example: He looked rather haggard after hiking over a thousand miles of the Appalachian trail.
4. havoc (n.) Definition: great destruction or confusion Origins: “Havoc!” was a war cry during the Middle Ages signaling that a conquering army would loot the rival land. Example: The impending weather created havoc in the grocery stores.
5. hypocrisy/ hypocrite (n.) Definition: pretending to be what one is not; especially to have feelings, beliefs or virtues that one does not have; one who pretends to be something he/she is not Origins: Ancient Greece “hypokrites” were actors. Example: My doctor was a hypocrite for telling me not to smoke when I caught him smoking with his friends at the restaurant.
6. mentor (n.) Definition: wise trusted teacher or counselor Origins: Greek mythology – Mentor was the trusted counselor in whose trust Odysseus left the care of his wife Penelope. Example: My coach has been my mentor for many years.
7. mercurial (adj.) Definition: changeable, unpredictable, lively Origins: Roman mythology – god Mercury was the messenger god depicted with wings on his feet; thus he was quick to change position and movement. Example: Her mercurial nature made her very difficult to understand;you could never tell if she would be happy or mad.
8. scruples (n.) Definition: doubt or uneasiness as to what is right or proper Origins: Ancient Rome – “scrupulus” were small stones that would become caught in the sandals of the Romans and cause irritation or doubt about the shoe; later the term simply evolved to mean doubt or uneasiness through the conscience Example: I sometimes doubt that Jim has any scruples at all; I can’t believe that he took money from his own grandmother for gambling.
9. travesty (n.) Definition: ridiculous imitation Origins: Latin – “vestire” to dress – to English “travestir” – to disguise by taking on someone else’s clothing Example: His attempt to sing the song was a travesty to the memory of Michael Jackson.
10. Utopia (n.) utopian (adj.) Definition: an ideal society; characteristic of an ideal society; visionary Origins: This word derives from the title of the book Utopia written by English author Thomas Moore. Example: It’s a pity that we will never live in a utopian society.