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Flashcards in P Words Deck (58):

palliate (v)

ease (pain or other symptoms); moderate intensity; make less severe or offensive

If we cannot cure this disease at present, we can, at least, try to palliate the symptoms.


palpable (adj)

perceptible by touch; easily perceived

On Super Tuesday as the primary results came in, the tension in the candidate's campaign headquarters was so intense that it seemed almost palpable.


panegyric (n)

eulogistic oration; formal expression of praise

In England during the Restoration, poets had the unenviable task of composing panegyrics to praise King Charles II's supposed virtues.


paradox (n)

something apparently contradictory in nature; statement that looks false, but is actually correct

In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods presents a bit of a paradox, for she is at one and the same time a bubble-headed sorority girl and a keen-witted law school student.


paragon (n)

model of perfection

"I'm always teasing Margot about being a paragon of virtue these days, and she hates it. Maybe it'll teach her not to be such a goody-goody." (Anne Frank)


pariah (n)

social outcast

If everyone ostracized singer Mariah Carey, would she then be Mariah the pariah?


parody (n/v)

humorous imitation (of a serious literary or musical work, a person, an event)

The show Forbidden Broadway presents parodies spoofing that year's new productions playing on Broadway.


parsimony (n)

excessive frugality

Although Queen Elizabeth I promised to reward her loyal troops richly, her parsimony outweighed her generosity, and her soldiers failed to receive their promised reward.


partisan (adj/n)

committed to a particular party or cause

On certain issues of principle, the senator refused to take a partisan stand, but let her conscience be her guide.


paucity (n)

smallness of numbers or of quantity

They closed the restaurant because the paucity of customers made it uneconomical to operate.


peccadillo (n)

minor sin; slight offense; trifling fault

Whenever Huck swiped a cookie from the jar, Miss Watson reacted as if he were guilty of armed robbery, not of some mere peccadillo.


pecuniary (adj)

pertaining to money

Seldom earning enough to cover their expenses, fold-dance teachers work because they love dancing, not because they expect any pecuniary reward.


pedagogy (n)

art or profession of teaching

Though Maria Montessori gained fame for her innovations in pedagogy, it took years before her teaching techniques became common practice in American schools.


pedantic (adj)

overly concerned with small details, especially when teaching; tending to show off one's learning

Leavening her decisions with humorous, down-to-earth anecdotes, Judge Judy did not match the conventional image of a pedantic, finicky legal scholar.


pejorative (adj)

negative in connotation; having a belittling effect

Instead of criticizing Obama's policies, the Republicans made pejorative remarks about his character.


penchant (n)

strong inclination; decided taste

Dave has a penchant for taking risks: one semester he simultaneously went steady with three girls, two of whom held black belts in karate.


penury (n)

extreme poverty

When his pension fund failed, George feared that he would end his days in abject penury.


perennial (adj/n)

lasting many years; recurring again and again

Harold Stassen gained fame for being a perennial candidate for the Republican Party nomination for president: he sought the nomination nine times in all, from 1948 to 1992.


perfidious (adj)

deliberately treacherous

When Caesar realized that Brutus had betrayed him, he reproached his perfidious friend.


perfunctory (adj)

lacking interest, care, or enthusiasm; not thorough

Giving the tabletop only a perfunctory swipe with her dust cloth, Betty told herself she'd polish it thoroughly tomorrow.


peripatetic (adj/n)

walking about; traveling from place to place

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Ethiopian rulers had a peripatetic lifestyle, living in tents and moving their capitals from place to place.


permeable (adj)

allowing liquids or gas to pass through

Permeable pavements, which allow water to infiltrate or pass through them, provide alternatives to standard asphalt and concrete, which are completely impervious surfaces.


peruse (v)

read with care; examine in detail

After the conflagration that burned down her house, Joan closely perused her home insurance policy to discover exactly what benefits her coverage provided.


pervasive (adj)

spread throughout every part

Despite airing her clothes for several hours, she could no rid them of the pervasive odor of mothballs that clung to them.


phenomena (n, pl)

observable facts; subjects of scientific investigation

Among the most beautiful natural phenomena, auroras, also known as northern and southern lights, are natural light displays in the sky.


phlegmatic (adj)

not easily disturbed or excited

The nurse was a cheerful but phlegmatic person, unexcited in the face of sudden emergencies.


pithy (adj)

terse and to the point

While other girls might have gone on and on about how uncool Elton was, Liz summed him up in one pithy comment: "He's bogus."


placate (v)

appease, often by making concessions

The store manager tried to placate the angry customer, offering to replace the damaged merchandise or to give back her money right away.


plasticity (n)

ability to be shaped without breaking; capability of being molded

In their resilience in the face of adversity, many children have shown a toughness and plasticity that make the determined efforts of some parents to spare their children the slightest pain seem ironic.


platitude (n)

trite remark

In giving advice to his son, old Polonius expressed himself only in empty platitudes; every bit of counsel he gave was a truism.


plethora (n)


Highly apologetic about her lack of proficiency, she offered a plethora of excuses for her shortcomings.


plummet (v)

drop sharply; fall swiftly; decline steeply

Stock prices plummeted as Wall Street reacted negatively to the rise in interest rates.


polemical (adj)

aggressive in verbal attack

Nicole was a master of polemical rhetoric; she should have worn a T-shirt with the slogan "Born to Debate."


politic (adj)

prudently tactful

Although Wendryn had strong reservations about her boss's latest pet project, she decided it would not be politic to voice them until her boss had gotten over the first flush of his enthusiasm.


porous (adj)

full of pores; allowing passage of air or liquids

So many refugees crossed into the country along its unfenced and largely unpatrolled border that one critic claimed the bored was as porous as a sieve.


pragmatic (adj)

concerned with the practical worth or impact of something; dealing with facts

The coming trip to France should provide me with a pragmatic test of the value of my conversational French class.


precarious (adj)

dependent on unknown conditions or circumstances, and therefore dangerous

Saying the stock would be a precarious investment, Tom advised Michael against purchasing it.


precipitate (adj)

exhibiting unwise haste or speed

Though Olivia was angry enough to resign on the spot, she had enough sense to keep herself from quitting a job in such a precipitate fashion.


preclude (v)

keep from happening; exclude the possibility

The fact that the band was already booked to play in Hollywood on New Year's Eve precluded their accepting the New Year's Eve gig in London.


precursor (n)

someone or something that precedes another

Though Burns shares many traits with the Romantic poets who followed him, most critics considered him a precursor of the Romantic Movement, not a true Romantic.


predilection (n)

tendency to regard something favorably

Although Georgia O'Keefe painted many subjects over the years, she had a definite predilection for painting flowers.


presumptuous (adj)

taking liberties; excessively forward

Matilda thought it was somewhat presumptuous of the young man to have addressed her without first having been introduced. Perhaps manners were freer here in the New World.


prevaricate (v)

speak misleadingly; intentionally misstate

The candidate sought to convince the voters that he was a straight shooter, someone who would never prevaricate or equivocate, but would always be honest and forthright.


pristine (adj)

unspoiled, or immaculately clean

As the snow fell, gently covering the hillside, the world seemed fresh and new under its pristine white blanket.


probity (n)

confirmed integrity and uprightness

Everyone had taken the banker's probity for granted; therefore, his misappropriation of the funds entrusted to him shocked the entire town.


problematic (adj)

not definite or resolved; open to debate

Given the way building costs have exceeded estimates for the job, whether the new arena will ever be completed is problematic.


proclivity (n)

natural inclination

As I watched the two-year-old voluntarily put away his toys, I was amazed by his proclivity for neatness.


prodigality (n)

wasteful extravagance; recklessness with money; uncontrolled spending

Shocked to discover that the Army had purchased an $800 toilet seat, the senator called for an investigation of military prodigality.


profligacy (n)

shameless immorality; wasteful extravagance

Scholarly and awkward, the future emperor Claudius felt out of place amid the dissipation and profligacy of his nephew Caligula's court.


proliferation (n)

rapid increase in numbers

Times of economic hardship inevitably encourage the proliferation of countless get-rich-quick schemes.


propensity (n)

natural inclination

Convinced of his own talent, Sol had an unfortunate propensity to belittle the talents of others.


propitiate (v)

gain the favor or good will of

Seeking to win her son's return from exile in Siberia, Anna Akhamatova wrote poems eulogizing Stalin and Soviet communism, hoping in this way to propitiate the dictator.


propriety (n)

correctness of behavior; conformity to conventional standards

Miss Manners counsels her readers so that they may behave with propriety in any social situation and not embarrass themselves.


prosaic (adj)

dull and unimaginative

Though the ad writers had come up with a wildly imaginative campaign to publicize the new product, the head office rejected it for a more prosaic, ordinary approach.


proscribe (v)

prohibit as unlawful or harmful

The antipornography bill not only sought to outlaw sexually explicit materials but also attempted to proscribe a wide variety of social and person activities, including kissing in public.


pundit (n)

learned authority; authoritative critic or commentator

The actor's political activism has made him a target of conservative pundits, who from their position as experts condemn his films' liberal point of view.


pungent (adj)

acrid tasting; strong smelling

The pungent odor of ripe Limburger cheese appealed to Simone, but made Stanley gag.


pusillanimous (adj)

lacking courage and resolve

Who is more fainthearted, the Cowardly Lion or the pusillanimous Pink Panther?