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11 Fun Word Lists to Drill Your Vocabulary On

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I was feeling pretty smug about my big, nerdy vocabulary when I tried out the word challenge at Vocabulary.com, but it didn’t take long for the game to find my weak spots. That’s because it quickly adapts to your level and learns to predict what words you don’t know. There’s also an app version you can take around with you, which is good, because while there are lots of ways to kill time on your phone while waiting in line, this one actually pays off in words learned. In the past few days I’ve gained osculate, litotes, and flagitious.

You can customize by choosing particular word lists to work on, and while many of the lists are organized around sober, practical topics—SAT prep, current events, historical documents, great books—there are a number of lists that are just plain word fun. Here are 11 of the best themed lists from Vocabulary.com for you to master, or just enjoy.

1. Words from Shakespearean insults

Knave, sere, dissembling, scorn…cut down your rivals with Elizabethan flair.

2. Words for frustrating situations

Vex, dumbfound, stupefy, perplex…develop a more engaging way to describe your bad day.

3. Words from '70s songs

If your example sentences come from The Clash (feckless), Warren Zevon (fray), or Stevie Wonder (dissipate), you might remember them better.

4. Words for ways of walking

There are so many ways to get around. Do you amble, careen, falter, somnambulate…?

5. Words from Latin cadere, to fall

A bunch of lists are organized around words that relate to a particular Latin root. Can you see how falling relates to casualty, deciduous, and catapult? It might help you learn them.

6. Words with prefix con- (together)

Grouping words with the same prefix can also help them stick. Look for the togetherness in concerted, conciliatory, concurrently…

7. Words related to Minecraft

Can’t get your 8-year-old to study? Try example sentences like this one, for “access”: “A portal is the only way to access the Nether and its contents.”

8. Words from dialogue written by Harold Ramis

Or maybe you’ve got a Ghostbusters fan who would do better with movie quotes from Harold Ramis. Rational: “Sorry, Venkman. I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.”

9. Words from Stephen Sondheim lyrics

You can get a lot out of the Sondheim songbook: précis, abstention, apse…

10. Words for writing about cheese 

They picked out the good ones from a New York Times article about cheese: rustic, earthy, dulcet…

11. Words pirates might like to say

At first it’s not clear what these words have to do with pirates. Arbitrary? Artichoke? Then you realize they are words pirates might like to say. Focus on that first syllable. Draw it out a little. Draw it out a little more—now you’re ready for Talk Like a Pirate Day!

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How to Say Merry Christmas in 26 Different Languages
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“Merry Christmas” is a special greeting in English, since it’s the only occasion we say “merry” instead of “happy.” How do other languages spread yuletide cheer? Ampersand Travel asked people all over the world to send in videos of themselves wishing people a “Merry Christmas” in their own language, and while the audio quality is not first-rate, it’s a fun holiday-themed language lesson.

Feel free to surprise your friends and family this year with your new repertoire of foreign-language greetings.

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How Often Is 'Once in a Blue Moon'? Let Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain
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From “lit” to “I can’t even,” lots of colloquialisms make no sense. But not all confusing phrases stem from Millennial mouths. Take, for example, “once in a blue moon”—an expression you’ve likely heard uttered by teachers, parents, newscasters, and even scientists. This term is often used to describe a rare phenomenon—but why?

Even StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know for sure. “I have no idea why a blue moon is called a blue moon,” he tells Mashable. “There is nothing blue about it at all.”

A blue moon is the second full moon to appear in a single calendar month. Astronomy dictates that two full moons can technically occur in one month, so long as the first moon rises early in the month and the second appears around the 30th or 31st. This type of phenomenon occurs every couple years or so. So taken literally, “Once in a blue moon” must mean "every few years"—even if the term itself is often used to describe something that’s even more rare.

[h/t Mashable]

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