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English Vocabulary Words For Essay Writing

50 Essays Vocabulary Words

tending to complain; whining
relating to quantity; measurable
indifferent, calm, and unconcerned
demonstrating or applying and undiscriminating or unselective approach
attributing human characteristics to non humans
pretend something, invent something
relieve something unpleasant
in vein, having no useful result
confident; cheerfully optimistic
desire to benefit humanity
refinement; upper class status
practical way of thinking about results
offspring; something resulting
snobby and pretentious manner
too concerned with formal rules and details
passionate argument, often controversial
making people angry or excited, sexually arousing
candor-honest; directness
alter something to make less strong
get rid of something completely
very knowledgeable through study
something coming before; word that subsequent word refers to
deliberate repetition of words or sentence structure for effect
a figure of speech in which an attribute is used to represent the whole thing
create or arise; have offspring
authorization to do something
belief that people are insincere
vicarious understanding of another's feelings; especially due to similar or shared experience
strongly negative feeling
conflict of ideas or attitudes; uncertainty
a message with an instructive purpose
the concurrent response of two or more of the senses to the stimulation of one
advance knowledge of things
gloomy, mournful; especially to an excessive degree
somebody with right or skill, a word or phrase that modifies or restricts the meaning of another word or phrase
a mild but earnest rebuke
sulky or ill-tempered in a peevish manner
not restrained by moral or ethical principals
unchanging or unchangeable
direct opposite; figure of speech that use words or phrases to contrast each other to create a balanced effect
determine number or extent of something
bitter verbal or written attack
to refute, to prove false, to deny the truth of something
essential attribute, official requirement
useful, of value or benefit to something or someone
hostility; extreme hatred
hypothesis; suggestion that might be true
ineffective; unlikely to be successful
bitter sharp in tone, taste, or manner
rude or arrogant, lack of respect
flagrant, conspicuously bad or offensive
seeking of pleasure as a way of life
withholding information; not sincere
believability, willingness to believe
figure of speech in which part of something is used to signify the whole
relating to senses and the sense organs
act of verifying or ratifying something
abstruse; difficult to understand

 

When taking the ACT essay section, students have 45 minutes to write a well-reasoned argumentative essay about a given prompt. The new ACT Essay prompts tend to be about “debate” topics — two sides of an issue are presented, with no obviously “right” side. Oftentimes, these subjects carry implications for broader issues such as freedom or morality. Test-takers are expected to convey some stance on the issue and support their argument with relevant facts and analysis.

 

In addition to some of the more obvious categories, like grammar and structure, students’ essays are also evaluated on their mastery of the English language. One way to demonstrate such mastery is through the correct usage of advanced vocabulary words. Below are 50 above-average vocabulary words sorted by the contexts in which they could most easily be worked into an ACT essay.

 

Context 1: Factual Support For ACT Essay

These words can easily be used when stating facts and describing examples to support one’s argument. On ACT essays, common examples are trends or patterns of human behavior, current or past events, and large-scale laws or regulations.

 

  • Antecedent – a precursor, or preceding event for something – N
  • Bastion – an institution/place/person that strongly maintains particular principles, attitudes, or activities – N
  • Bellwether – something that indicates a trend – N
  • Burgeon – to begin to grow or increase rapidly – V
  • Catalyst – an agent that provokes or triggers change – N
  • Defunct – no longer in existence or functioning – Adj.
  • Entrenched – characterized by something that is firmly established and difficult to change – Adj.
  • Foster – to encourage the development of something – V
  • Galvanize – to shock or excite someone into taking action – V
  • Impetus – something that makes a process or activity happen or happen faster – N
  • Inadvertent – accidental or unintentional – Adj.
  • Incessant – never ending; continuing without pause – Adj.
  • Inflame – to provoke or intensify strong feelings in someone – V
  • Instill – to gradually but firmly establish an idea or attitude into a person’s mind – V
  • Lucrative – having a large reward, monetary or otherwise – Adj.
  • Myriad – countless or extremely large in number – Adj.
  • Precipitate – to cause something to happen suddenly or unexpectedly – V
  • Proponent – a person who advocates for something – N
  • Resurgence – an increase or revival after a period of limited activity – N
  • Revitalize – to give something new life and vitality – V
  • Ubiquitous – characterized by being everywhere; widespread – Adj.
  • Watershed – an event or period that marks a turning point – N


Context 2: Analysis

These words can often be used when describing common patterns between examples or casting some form of opinion or judgement.

 

  • Anomaly – deviation from the norm – N
  • Automaton – a mindless follower; someone who acts in a mechanical fashion – N
  • Belie – to fail to give a true impression of something – V
  • Cupidity – excessive greed – Adj.
  • Debacle – a powerful failure; a fiasco – N
  • Demagogue – a political leader or person who looks for support by appealing to prejudices instead of using rational arguments – N
  • Deter – to discourage someone from doing something by making them doubt or fear the consequences – V
  • Discredit – to harm the reputation or respect for someone – V
  • Draconian – characterized by strict laws, rules and punishments – Adj.
  • Duplicitous – deliberately deceitful in speech/behavior – Adj.
  • Egregious – conspicuously bad; extremely evil; monstrous and outrageous – Adj.
  • Exacerbate – to make a situation worse – V
  • Ignominious – deserving or causing public disgrace or shame – Adj.
  • Insidious – proceeding in a subtle way but with harmful effects – Adj.
  • Myopic – short-sighted; not considering the long run – Adj.
  • Pernicious – dangerous and harmful – Adj.
  • Renegade – a person who betrays an organization, country, or set of principles – N
  • Stigmatize – to describe or regard as worthy of disgrace or disapproval – V
  • Superfluous – unnecessary – Adj.
  • Venal – corrupt; susceptible to bribery – Adj.
  • Virulent – extremely severe or harmful in its effects – Adj.
  • Zealot – a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals – N

 

Context 3: Thesis and Argument

These words are appropriate for taking a stance on controversial topics, placing greater weight on one or the other end of the spectrum, usually touching on abstract concepts, and/or related to human nature or societal issues.

 

  • Autonomy – independence or self governance; the right to make decisions for oneself – N
  • Conundrum – a difficult problem with no easy solution – N
  • Dichotomy – a division or contrast between two things that are presented as opposites or entirely different – N
  • Disparity – a great difference between things – N
  • Divisive – causing disagreement or hostility between people – Adj.
  • Egalitarian – favoring social equality and equal rights – Adj.

 

Although it’s true that vocabulary is one of the lesser criteria by which students’ ACT essays are graded, the small boost it may give to a student’s score could be the difference between a good score and a great score. For those who are already confident in their ability to create and support a well-reasoned argument but still want to go the extra mile, having a few general-purpose, impressive-sounding vocabulary words up one’s sleeve is a great way to tack on even more points.

 

To learn more about the ACT test, check out these CollegeVine posts:

 

Angela Yang

Angela is a student at Cornell College of Engineering. At CollegeVine, she works primarily as ACT Verbal Division Manager. She enjoys teaching a variety of subjects and helping students realize their dreams.

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