Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Adjectives I Have Kown and Loved (Aa-Am)

Abdominous (ab DOM in us) means potbellied, which (for personal reasons) I interpret to be something more than just hefty. This is one of those diplomatic words that you might use in describing a long and difficult flight - sitting next to the abdominous gentleman in coach class.

Abstruse (ab STROOS) means difficult to understand. It’s a valuable word for those situations when somebody’s lecture went over your head and you’re looking for consolation without feeling stupid. “Boy that was a boring class,” you might say, “and it was so abstruse.”

Abyssal (a BIS ul) refers to the deep parts of the ocean. It can also mean unfathomably extreme. Because it is so clearly related to the word “abyss” it can also imply a bottomless pit. Perhaps your boss is making decisions that will have dire - even abyssal - consequences.

Accelerative (ak SELL ur a tiv) is an interesting word that has nothing at all to do with relatives that look like celery. It means speeding things up. It is possible, though, that your Great Uncle Ebenezer is suffering from an accelerative senility.

Acerbic (a SURB ik) means sour, acidic or sharp. Biting into a lemon can cause an acerbic sensation. Biting into your mother-in-law might cause one too.

Achromic (ay CROW mik) means having no color. January near the coast can make for foggy and achromic days. I imagine that spelunking can too.

Aculeate (a KYOO li it) refers to stingers - especially those of bees and wasps. But there is ample etymological (as well as entomological) precedent to use the word in other ways. Maybe you know someone who constantly engages in aculeate conversation.

Adipose (AD i poze) refers to fatty tissue and certainly lends itself to diplomatic descriptions. You might, for instance, describe a guest as a kind and adipose acquaintance. Or then again, you might not.

Adrenal (a DREE nul) refers to the kidneys and is usually restricted to medical usage. One can easily see other opportunities for it however. “I have to go take a wiz,” might be more politely expressed as, “excuse me, there’s been a bit of an adrenal development that I must attend to”.

Adumbral (ad UM brul) refers to shadows or being in a shadow. A forest is an adumbral place. A miser has an adumbral face. A bride can hide in adumbral lace.

Aestival (ES tu vul) refers to the summer, or to passing the hot (and possibly dry) summer in a state of dormancy. Why not take an aestival afternoon nap when its hot?

Affable (AF a bul) means approachable or easy to talk to. Not everyone has the gift of the affable salesman. But we all might become an affable friend.

Affined (a FIND) is an old word not much used anymore referring to an affinity between people or objects. Sometimes the affinity is one of kinship but it doesn’t have to be. It is a useful word that allows for meanings hard to describe in other ways. A good friend, for example, can be an affined brother or sister - implying a sentiment approaching kinship.

Agminate (AG min it) means gathered into clusters. Most people have agminate preferences. We do live in neighborhoods and cities after all. Unfortunately, traffic problems (and accidents) are often agminate too.

Agonistic (ag u NIST ik) means competitive or argumentative. Lawyers have a reputation for being agonistic. Too bad for you if your office-mate is too.

Agrarian (a GRAIR y un) is a rustic word referring to the land and agriculture. An agrarian life is a life of healthy work and simple pleasures. Those of us frustrated by urban frenzy spend the week planning our agrarian escapes.

Agrestal (a GRES tul) means growing wild like weeds. If you like planting things more than weeding, you undoubtedly have an agrestal garden. On the other hand, your teenage son, who may not like gardening at all, may very well have an agrestal bedroom.

Akimbo (a KIM bo) means having the hands on the hips with the elbows turned outward. An akimbo glare from your mother would be imposing, even to the point of being a threat. But if your mother put on a cowboy hat, went out back and stared akimbo at the evening sky you might say she was a romantic.

Alary (AY lu ree) might sound like a sickness of sorts. But in fact it refers to wings. I guess if you’re afraid of heights you might also suffer from an alary ailment of sorts.

Aleatory (AY lee a tor ee) is another audibly confusing adjective. It has nothing to do with wings. It instead refers to luck or gambling. It’s the blackjack dealer and not the stewardess that has an aleatory employment. Maybe you do too and just didn’t know it.

Algological (al gah LOJ i kul) refers to algae, or the study off algae. I admit that this is a technical term used almost exclusively by biologists but it sounds so gutturally pleasing that we must find other uses for it. Say you forget to clean the swimming pool, for example. Why not ascribe your delinquency to algological preferences. Or, next time you go to a Korean restaurant you might impress your date. Instead of asking for roasted laver flakes, ask instead for the algological appetizers. Maybe you like earth tones. You could decorate your room in an algological theme.

Alible (AL a bul) refers to something that is nourishing or full of nutrients. but the ending also gives it a sense of something edible (at least it does to me). You might very appropriately compliment the cook on her alible dinner.

Alliterative (a LIT ur a tiv) refers to words that have the same initial sound. One has to have a certain literary bent to appreciate alliterative phrases. In fact reading these definitions may strike one as being altogether alarmingly alliterative. But what can one do?

Alluvial (a LOO vee ul) refers to the sediment left by flowing water. It’s also an appropriate word for such places. A park by a river is an alluvial park. Make sure you have flood insurance if you buy a house in an alluvial development.

Alpine (AL pine) refers to high mountains. Watch out for the last syllable, though. Alpine environments are above timberline and don’t refer to pine trees (although pines are often nearby). Alpine flowers, however, do have their high altitude charm. And those of us who love mountains and their brilliant night skies are convinced of their alpine inspiration.

Altruistic (al tru IS tik) refers to a concern for the welfare of others. It can also mean valuing the needs of others above your own. Watch out for specious claims of altruistic behavior. People who advertise their so-called philanthropy are not altruistic at all.

Amandine (a man DEEN) refers to almonds. You might see it on the menu of a fancy restaurant (swordfish amandine, for example) and think it is a foreign word. Not so. Chances are you enjoy a crunchy amandine cereal for breakfast, or an amandine granola bar for lunch.

Ambient (AM bee unt) means surrounding. It is a useful word that needs to escape from the rut of always describing conditions. My office, for example, used to overlook a lake and ambient forest. What’s nice about this use is the sense of ambience that comes with it.

Ambrosial (am BRO zhul) refers to a fragrance or taste that is worthy of the gods. Perhaps your mother’s cooking is truly ambrosial. Maybe your boyfriend has an ambrosial preference in perfume.

Ambulatory (AM byu la tor ee) has nothing to do with ambulances or the transportation of the injured. It refers to walking. You might prefer a refreshing ambulatory evening in the park instead of a mindless evening in front of the TV. Maybe you should think about getting a dog if you want an ambulatory friend.

Amenable (a MEE nub ul) means willing to follow advice or accept authority. It can also refer to someone who is open to criticism. It seems like the only place I see this word is in reference to negotiations of one kind or another. But it is possible to have an amenable personality. Believe it or not, it is even possible to be an amenable leader.

Amorphous (a MORE fus) refers to a lack of form or shape. It can also refer to a lack of character. A formless fog might be an amorphous morning mist. Unfortunately it might also be the basis of your favorite senator’s foreign policy.