12 • Lesson 6 Word List

actuate

(v) 1. To cause to put into mechanical motion.
A thermostat is actuated by changes of temperature.

2. To cause to take action.
Telecasts of the grievances of Native American women actuated Wilma Mankiller, a Cherokee, to return to Oklahoma, where she became the tribe’s first female chief.

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brackish

(adj) 1. Made up of a mixture of freshwater and seawater.
Crabs thrive in the brackish waters of the estuary.

2. Having an unpleasant taste.
The coffee had been brewed hours before and was now so brackish that it was undrinkable.

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cognitive*

(adj) Relating to mental processes such as awareness, remembering, and reasoning.
A person’s cognitive skills can be evaluated using psychological tests.

dissertation*

(n) A lengthy, usually written discussion of a topic, often for a college or university degree.
On completion of her dissertation on phosphoarginine functions in invertebrates, Arya received her M.S. degree.

dolorous

(adj) Causing or marked by pain, misery, or sorrow.
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo used graphic imagery to express grief in her dolorous self-portraits.

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endemic

(adj) Widespread or peculiar to a certain place or among a certain people.
Malaria is endemic to the tropics.

fecund

(adj) 1. Producing or capable of producing many offspring.
Johann Sebastian Bach and his wife, Anna, were a fecund couple who raised twenty children.

2. Intellectually or artistically productive; creative.
Bach was a fecund composer, and among his many works are some three hundred sacred cantatas.

genealogy

(n) The history of a family and how its members are related to one another; also the study of such family histories.
Marla can trace her family’s genealogy all the way back to pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620.

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inebriated

(adj) Deprived of good sense and judgment, especially as the result of imbibing alcohol.
SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) makes clear the horrors resulting from inebriated persons at the wheel.

insidious

(adj) 1. Seemingly harmless while actually being dangerous; treacherous or deceptive.
The con man’s apparent rectitude was an insidious attempt to win our trust.

2. Spreading harmfully in a subtle or gradual way.
Watching too much television may have an insidious effect on the minds of young children.

interloper

(n) One who intrudes on or interferes in the affairs of others.
The tribe considered the tourists interlopers and resented their stares.

precursor

(n) A person or thing that comes before and indicates the approach of another; a forerunner.
Aching muscles can be the precursor to a bout of the flu.

presentiment

(n) A feeling that something is about to occur.
When the telephone rang, I had a presentiment that Uncle Antonio’s condition had worsened.

ramification

(n) An outgrowth of a simple idea or plan; a resulting development or consequence.
Eliminating the position of Department Chair has ramifications for all students in social studies courses.

torpor

(n) A state of mental or physical sluggishness or inactivity.
Extreme heat often induces torpor in those unused to the tropics.

torpid (adj)

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