List 11

100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know

American Heritage Dictionaries normally feature about 70,000 entries. From that multitude, the editors have chosen 100 words that are neither obscure nor outlandish that could give middle schoolers more aplomb and aptitude in their verbal encounters. If you're not sure whether that is something you need, study this list.

Words selected by the Editors of the American Heritage® Dictionaries. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


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  1. adversary

    someone who offers opposition
    The students are united by shared suffering, and by a common
    adversary.New York Times (Nov 10, 2014)
  2. aplomb

    great coolness and composure under strain
    I wish I had handled it with
    aplomb.New York Times (May 18, 2014)
  3. apprehensive

    in fear or dread of possible evil or harm
    Virga still feels
    apprehensive when visiting an unfamiliar zoo.New York Times (Jul 3, 2014)
  4. aptitude

    inherent ability
    I was recently asked in an interview, what is more valued by companies –
    aptitude or attitude? Forbes (Sep 12, 2014)
  5. attentive

    taking heed
    You make sure to be extra
    attentive to your friend.Time (Oct 2, 2014)
  6. banish

    send away from a place of residence, as for punishment
    Napoleon loses so big that he is
    banished to an island.New York Times (Dec 5, 2014)
  7. barricade

    block off with barriers
    The Secret Service ordered nearby streets and parking lots
    barricaded for security.Washington Times (Dec 1, 2014)
  8. bluff

    deceive someone about your strength or intentions
    Sporting a pith helmet, Nixon observed that “whoever is talking the loudest is pretty sure to be
    bluffing.”New York Times (Sep 19, 2014)
  9. brackish

    slightly salty
    Brackish water can be used, but freshwater is easier and less costly.New York Times (May 14, 2014)
  10. brandish

    move or swing back and forth
    brandished a “Free Hugs” sign as he stood alone in front of a police barricade.MSNBC (Nov 30, 2014)
  11. circumference

    the size of something as given by the distance around it
    That's almost 10 times the
    circumference of the Earth, which is a surprisingly small 24,859.82 miles.BBC (Dec 1, 2014)
  12. commotion

    confused movement
    Moments later came
    commotion, followed by shouts of “Stop pushing me!”MSNBC (Sep 26, 2014)
  13. concoction

    any foodstuff made by combining different ingredients
    There are some food combos that blend beautifully with each other to create truly tasty
    concoctions.US News (Sep 4, 2014)
  14. conspicuous

    obvious to the eye or mind
    Today, the link is more
    conspicuous: highlighted in blue, it appears directly beneath the site’s login form.New York Times (Oct 23, 2014)
  15. contortion

    a tortuous and twisted shape or position
    There was tumbling, human pyramids and bodies stretched into extraordinary
    contortions.BBC (Aug 25, 2013)
  16. counter

    speak in response
    The seller can then accept,
    counter or reject the offer.US News (Dec 9, 2014)
  17. cunning

    shrewdness as demonstrated by being skilled in deception
    Moreover, it was no secret that Cleopatra had ruthless
    cunning and superior intelligence.Sterling Biographies®: Cleopatra: Egypt's Last and Greatest Queen
  18. debris

    the remains of something that has been destroyed
    The blast rattled their homes and sent
    debris flying onto nearby properties, they said.Washington Times (Dec 4, 2014)
  19. defiance

    a hostile challenge
    Schools still could expel students for violating school rules or laws and could suspend students for willful
    defiance of authorities in grades 4 through 12.Washington Times (Sep 27, 2014)
  20. deft

    skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
    To make it work requires a
    deft hand.Forbes (Sep 25, 2014)
  21. destination

    the place designated as the end, as of a race or journey
    Airports get stacked up with planes that can’t take off for their
    destinations.Forbes (Dec 9, 2014)
  22. diminish

    decrease in size, extent, or range
    By Friday morning, most of the heavy rain is expected to
    diminish.Los Angeles Times (Dec 10, 2014)
  23. disdain

    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    In the visage of Grumpy Cat, it seems, her fans found the perfect holy expression of indifferent
    disdain for all things.Washington Post
  24. dismal

    causing dejection
    It’s been a pretty
    dismal month, as far as world events go, but the news wasn’t all bad thanks to some very entertaining on-air mishaps.Time (Aug 28, 2014)
  25. dispel

    force to go away
    For most of us,
    dispelling the darkness is as simple as turning on a light.Time (Oct 23, 2014)
  26. eavesdrop

    listen without the speaker's knowledge
    eavesdrop on the noises that other birds make while hiding food in order to steal the stash later, new research shows.Science Magazine (Nov 21, 2014)
  27. egregious

    conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible
    Prosecutors questioned him about killings and other
    egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by his regime.Los Angeles Times (Oct 4, 2014)
  28. ember

    a hot, smoldering fragment of wood left from a fire
    “Every hot spot is an
    ember that, if not contained, can become a new fire,” Obama said.Los Angeles Times (Dec 2, 2014)
  29. emerge

    come out into view, as from concealment
    They say that program has helped them
    emerge from the shadows, making possible a work permit, a Social Security number and enhanced self-respect.Washington Post
  30. engross

    consume all of one's attention or time
    I don’t know how long I was reading; I was so
    engrossed in the paper that I did not hear any footsteps.Long Walk to Freedom
  31. exasperation

    a feeling of annoyance
    Like many a teenager on his school holidays, Parys is in bed, his mother explains with
    exasperation.The Guardian (Aug 2, 2014)
  32. exhilarate

    fill with sublime emotion
    “To see Yosemite Falls coming to life this morning is truly
    exhilarating,” Park Superintendent Don Neubacher said in a statement. Los Angeles Times (Dec 3, 2014)
  33. falter

    move hesitatingly, as if about to give way
    “The rocket has
    faltered, but it won’t crash,” he said.New York Times (Nov 20, 2014)
  34. foresight

    seeing ahead; knowing in advance; foreseeing
    But nobody had the wherewithal or
    foresight to think that day would actually happen.MSNBC (Jul 3, 2014)
  35. fragrance

    a distinctive odor that is pleasant
    After 30 minutes in the oven, what hits you first is the enticing, warm
    fragrance that fills your kitchen.Washington Post
  36. furtive

    secret and sly
    What muffled whispers do they share, what
    furtive games are they playing?The Guardian (Dec 18, 2012)
  37. grueling

    characterized by effort to the point of exhaustion
    As of Dec. 19, 22 students will have made it through a
    grueling curriculum that requires about 700 hours of computer code.Washington Times (Dec 10, 2014)
  38. gusto

    vigorous and enthusiastic enjoyment
    They each approach their tasks with
    gusto that can only be admired, even if the results can’t.Washington Times (Aug 21, 2014)
  39. habitation

    the act of dwelling in or living permanently in a place
    Although the area is not fit for human
    habitation, many poor people who work in the coal mines live here.BBC (Aug 13, 2013)
  40. hasten

    speed up the progress of; facilitate
    Rather than wait for that day, he set out to
    hasten its arrival.Scientific American (Sep 3, 2014)
  41. headway

    forward movement
    At times, you feel like you’re struggling to run forward, going through the motions but making no
    headway, frozen in place.Washington Post
  42. ignite

    cause to start burning
    Firefighters say the blaze started when stain-soaked rags
    ignited on the front porch.Washington Times (Dec 10, 2014)
  43. illuminate

    make free from confusion or ambiguity
    The problem is that for
    illuminating answers, you need to ask the right questions.New York Times (Dec 6, 2014)
  44. impending

    close in time; about to occur
    First, he gives the enemy 12 days of warning about
    impending air attacks.Washington Post
  45. imperious

    having or showing arrogant superiority
    It was a little scary how quickly he flipped from friendly to
    imperious.New York Times (Sep 4, 2013)
  46. jabber

    talk in a noisy, excited, or declamatory manner
    A parrot
    jabbered atop its cage and a monkey squealed and battered at its bronze ring, until its owner brought bananas.Bartlett, Paul Alexander
  47. jargon

    technical terminology characteristic of a particular subject
    Steer clear of
    jargon, me-too claims, and statements without substance.Forbes (Dec 5, 2014)
  48. jostle

    make one's way by pushing or shoving
    In Jerusalem, great religions have crowded and
    jostled their way down through millenniums.Los Angeles Times (Nov 21, 2014)
  49. jut

    extend out or project in space
    From its long beak
    juts a fearsome tooth.New York Times (Nov 10, 2014)
  50. kindle

    call forth, as an emotion, feeling, or response
    Recently in class I saw the fire of an idea flicker in a first-year student’s eyes—and so to
    kindle it I cold-called him.Forbes (Sep 16, 2014)
  51. knoll

    a small natural hill
    The home, set on a quarter-acre
    knoll, has views of the city, the Hollywood Reservoir and the Hollywood sign.Los Angeles Times (Aug 9, 2014)
  52. luminous

    softly bright or radiant
    It was briefly one of the most
    luminous stars in the galaxy.New York Times (Sep 3, 2014)
  53. malleable

    easily influenced
    “Memory is so
    malleable or volatile that each time we see something, the memory is actually influenced and re-created.”Washington Times (Oct 18, 2014)
  54. materialize

    come into being; become reality
    By the time people reach their 70s, they’re beginning to look back at the plans they made and dreams they had that never
    materialized.Time (Nov 25, 2014)
  55. meander

    move or cause to move in a winding or curving course
    Instead of straight paths and noisy throngs, the new park will have
    meandering walkways and quiet places for picnicking nestled in gently sloping "lawn valleys."Chicago Tribune (Jul 26, 2014)
  56. meticulous

    marked by extreme care in treatment of details
    It's a six-page scene and very
    meticulous, step by step.Los Angeles Times (Aug 24, 2014)
  57. misgiving

    uneasiness about the fitness of an action
    Quite a few said they had come despite the
    misgivings of parents who wanted them to focus on studying.New York Times (Sep 26, 2014)
  58. momentum

    an impelling force or strength
    Mitchell believed that a song’s
    momentum should always push upward, ascending like the slope of a mountain into the unknown.Washington Post
  59. monotonous

    sounded or spoken in a tone unvarying in pitch
    Unfortunately, their
    monotonous verbiage reminds me of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the “Peanuts” TV shows.Washington Post
  60. multitude

    a large indefinite number
    They surround you in their
    multitudes - hundreds, maybe thousands of them, swooping and stinging and injecting venom into your flesh.BBC (Oct 9, 2014)
  61. muster

    gather or bring together
    Fans chanted and hollered and enriched the arena with as much life as they could possibly
    muster.New York Times (Dec 10, 2014)
  62. narrate

    give a detailed account of
    Standing amid bags of garbage, he starts sorting, tearing open plastic bags and
    narrating his finds.Los Angeles Times (Oct 15, 2014)
  63. obscure

    not clearly understood or expressed
    The book contains little plot, an abundance of
    obscure poetry and the untimely death of three protagonists.Los Angeles Times (Dec 5, 2014)
  64. ominous

    threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
    “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day,” an
    ominous voiceover states.Time (Oct 7, 2014)
  65. outlandish

    noticeably or extremely unconventional or unusual
    Not everything in the show is
    outlandish; some events are all too realistic.New York Times (Nov 16, 2014)
  66. persistent

    stubbornly unyielding
    It says, “together, if we face obstacles and counter the negative with a
    persistent positive, we might just change the world.”Seattle Times (Dec 1, 2014)
  67. pertinent

    having precise or logical relevance to the matter at hand
    You write about things that feel
    pertinent and urgent to you, and that varies depending on what stage of life you are going through. MSNBC (Jul 11, 2014)
  68. plenteous

    affording an abundant supply
    "The harvest truly is
    plenteous, but the labourers are few."Wilson, J. M. (James Maurice)
  69. potential

    existing in possibility
    potential global threat should policymakers pay more attention to?US News (Dec 11, 2014)
  70. precipice

    a very steep cliff
    "Every minute of every day, we were on the
    precipice of failure, which is an exciting place to be," Marsh says.Los Angeles Times (Nov 25, 2014)
  71. pristine

    completely free from dirt or contamination
    Back at the jail, Snow White is getting under Anna's skin a bit -- shaking her once
    pristine view of the princess.Los Angeles Times (Dec 8, 2014)
  72. quell

    overcome or allay
    The White House has tried to
    quell anxieties about the danger of Ebola spreading in the United States.Washington Post
  73. recluse

    one who lives in solitude
    Long before his days as the world’s most famous
    recluse, Howard Hughes flew planes fast and far.New York Times (Jul 14, 2014)
  74. recuperate

    restore to good health or strength
    Sleep is the time when your body
    recuperates and rebuilds from the day’s stress.US News (Jun 24, 2014)
  75. replenish

    fill something that had previously been emptied
    They bring in dredged sand to
    replenish the beach.Washington Post
  76. repugnant

    offensive to the mind
    The truth is that we need only look at recent human history to find real, live, utterly
    repugnant evil.Salon (Sep 4, 2014)
  77. restitution

    a sum of money paid in compensation for loss or injury
    restitution is paid to the victim, criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to a crime victims’ fund.Washington Times (Nov 21, 2014)
  78. sabotage

    destroy property or hinder normal operations
    “We want at least a district that won’t
    sabotage the dreams of its youths.”Los Angeles Times (Nov 21, 2014)
  79. scarcity

    a small and inadequate amount
    scarcity, quality and the regulations affecting it—is becoming a new corporate headache.Economist (Nov 6, 2014)
  80. scurry

    move about or proceed hurriedly
    Ever wonder how cockroaches
    scurry around in the dark while you fumble to switch on the kitchen light?Science Magazine (Dec 3, 2014)
  81. serenity

    the absence of mental stress or anxiety
    The surrounding waters and beautiful pools that surround the hotel create a real sense of calm and luxurious
    serenity.Forbes (Jul 25, 2014)
  82. sociable

    friendly and pleasant
    Running with others is really
    sociable and great fun.BBC (Apr 10, 2014)
  83. somber

    grave or even gloomy in character
    It was also the day before one of the most
    somber of American anniversaries: Pearl Harbor was bombed 73 years ago Sunday.Washington Post
  84. specimen

    an example regarded as typical of its class
    The researchers detected it in older starfish samples, museum
    specimens from as early as 1942.Reuters (Nov 17, 2014)
  85. stamina

    enduring strength and energy
    A 6-year-old might not want to walk the mile into Petra, but teenagers have enough physical and intellectual
    stamina to appreciate going to these places.­New York Times (Dec 5, 2014)
  86. subside

    wear off or die down
    The virus has a history of
    subsiding, then flaring up again.Washington Post
  87. swagger

    a proud stiff pompous gait
    The Giants had arrived here with the
    swagger of a team that had won two of the last four World Series titles.New York Times (Oct 3, 2014)
  88. swarm

    move in large numbers
    In “
    Swarm” mode, the robots instead follow one another, like children chasing a soccer ball.New York Times (Dec 1, 2014)
  89. tactic

    a plan for attaining a particular goal
    Technology has been used as a crime-fighting
    tactic, but not as a tool to determine what happens during a police action.New York Times (Dec 4, 2014)
  90. terse

    brief and to the point
    It’s a request to which Dipper responds, with
    terse eloquence, “Weird.”New York Times (Nov 21, 2014)
  91. translucent

    allowing light to pass through diffusely
    It comes in several colors, including attractive
    translucent ones.Washington Times (Jul 30, 2014)
  92. uncanny

    surpassing the ordinary or normal
    The Dark Sky App tells you the weather where you are with an
    uncanny accuracy. Forbes (Jun 26, 2014)
  93. unsightly

    unpleasant to look at
    But that’s just a quibble, an
    unsightly pimple on what is a greater problem.The Guardian (Oct 14, 2014)
  94. versatile

    able to move freely in all directions
    Eggs are among the most
    versatile foods and the proteins change when you heat them, beat them or mix them with other ingredients.US News (Dec 10, 2014)
  95. vigilant

    carefully observant or attentive
    Because there are so many scammers out there, banks are
    vigilant about verifying that you are who you say you are.Washington Post
  96. vulnerable

    capable of being wounded or hurt
    Second, older cells are more
    vulnerable to this damage—or less able to repair themselves.Scientific American (Dec 9, 2014)
  97. waft

    be driven or carried along, as by the air
    The birds were chirping, and a warm breeze
    wafted through the screens.Washington Post
  98. waver

    pause or hold back in uncertainty or unwillingness
    He is tough as nails, never
    wavers, speaks the truth and stays focused.New York Times (Oct 13, 2014)
  99. weather

    face and withstand with courage
    You even get subjected to ridicule, and you have to
    weather that storm.Los Angeles Times (Dec 10, 2014)
  100. zeal

    a feeling of strong eagerness
    The enthusiasm has caught on among his regulars, who come often, linger and talk about pumpkins with the
    zeal of converts.Washington Post
Created on December 12, 2014
(updated December 16, 2014)

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