AP Language & Composition

Vocabulary Lesson 2

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Alter idem.
 The same as oneself. - Cicero

Lesson 2A

The Other

Key words


Latin – “other”

1. Altercation

Latin – altercari

 “to have difference

 with another”


Definition: A noisy quarrel

Sentence: In the British Parliament of the 1880s altercations over Home Rule for Ireland arose frequently between the prime minister William Gladstone and the Irish member Charles Parnell.

2. Altruism

Adjective: Altruistic

Sentence: The economist Barbara Ward asserts that both individuals and governments prosper when sagacious (wise) altruism governs their cooperation.



Concern for the welfare of others; unselfishness.

Familiar Words

Challenge words


Greek: “on,” “toward”

3. Ephemeral

Epi  + hemera – Greek – day


Definition: Lasting for a very short time (literally, for one day); transitory; not everlasting.

Sentence: The experiment in harmonious community living begun in 1841 on Brook Farm proved to be ephemeral, lasting only until 1847 despite the hopes of its members to share intellectual stimulation and manual labor.

                                                            4. Epitaph

Epi + taphos – Greek – tomb


Definition: An inscription on a tombstone in memory of the person buried there; a brief (literary) summary of a dead person’s life.


4. Epitaph

Sentence: Jane Austen’s epitaph

 in Winchester Cathedral attests to “the benevolence of her heart.”

5. Epitome

Epi + Greek – temnein – “to cut”


Definition: A typical representation of something; a person who embodies a quality.


5. Eponymous

Epi + Greek onym – “name”


Definition: Refers to the name a of a person, a mythical being, or a literary figure associated with something, or to a word incorporating the name of such a person.



An arbiter of fashion in the court of Louis XV the eponymous Marquise de Pompadour wore her hair upswept from the forehead in the style that became known as the pompadour.

Nota Bene

Although epicurean begins with epi, its source is the eponymous Greek philosopher Epicurus, who is sometimes interpreted as endorsing self-indulgence: an epicure is someone of refined taste in food and drink. However, Epicurus believed that happiness comes from moderation. He advocated rational thought and self-control as a means of heightening pleasure and avoiding pain.

Familiar words (look up any you don’t already know)

Challenge words



Lesson 2B



Greek – “beside”

7. Paradigm

Para + Greek – deiknunai – “to show”


Definition: an example serving to illustrate a process, pattern, or concept



8. Paradox

Para + Greek – doxa = opinion; judgment


A statement that seems contradictory but contains a truth or valid deduction

Sentence: “There is that glorious epicurean paradox…”Give us the luxuries of life, and we will dispense with its necessaries.”

--Oliver Wendell Holmes


9. Paragon

Para + Greek – akonan -  “to sharpen”


Definition: A model of excellence or perfection

Sentence: Aspasia became known in Athens as a paragon of oratory, inspiring Plato, socrates, and Pericles with her eloquence and skill in composing speeches.


Nota bene

The definitions of epitome, paradigm, and paragon overlap somewhat. Note that an epitome is a general representation of something, not necessarily good or admirable. One person may be the epitome of courage and another the epitome of cowardice; a room may be the epitome of tastelessness or of classical grandeur.

A paradigm provides a basic form of something whose process, pattern, or concept can serve as a model, as in automobile assembly, the conjugation of verbs, or the working of an algebra problem.

A paragon, usually a person, is someone outstanding for some personal quality or remarkable achievement.

10. Parameter

Para + Greek – metron = “to measure”


Definition: # 1 In mathematics, a constant that has variable values and is used to determine other variables.

Sentence: If a gorilla were scaled up to the size of King Kong, the parameters of the volume and cross-sectional area show that the creature would collapse under its own weight.

10. Parameter

Definition #2: A factor that determines a range of variations: a boundary

Sentence #2: One of the functions of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is to set parameters for the workplace, such as humane schedules and physical safeguards.

Familiar Words

More Familiar words

Challenge words



Lesson 2C

Around; Put


Greek: “around



Patein – Greek –

To walk

Definition: Walking or traveling about

Sentence: At age nineteen the English author Laurie Lee made a peripatetic journey across Spain, walking from village to village and playing his violin in cafes for meals and lodging.

12. Peripheral

Greek – pherein – to carry

Definition 1: Pertaining to the boundary of an area

Sentence #1: When the Romans invaded Britain, they built camps whose peripheral walls still surround central sections of many English cities.

12. Peripheral

Nota Bene

A test of peripheral vision determines the capacity of the eye when focused directly ahead to see objects on the perimeter of the field, out of the corner of the eye.

Familiar words

challenge words


Greek: “to put”



13. Anathema:

Greek – Ana – “up”


Definition #1: A person or thing detested and shunned.

13. Anathema

Definition #2

A curse, especially a formal church ban or excommunication.

Sentence #2

Pope Leo X in 1520 proclaimed an anathema against Martin Luther for his attack on the sale of indulgences, a practice the Pope himself had encouraged.

Familiar words:

Challenge words

14. Antithesis

Anti – Greek – “opposite;” “against”


Definition #1: An exact opposite; a complete contrast

Sentence #1: Ella Fitzgerald’s sinuous vocal improvisations are the antithesis of the thunderous drive of rock music although the term popular music can refer to both.

Antithesis Examples

Ella Fitzgerald


14. Antithesis

Definition #2

A rhetorical form juxtaposing contrasting ideas, often in parallel structure.

Sentence #2

Minna Antrim juxtaposes two kinds of knowledge to create antithesis: “to know one’s self is wisdom, but to know one’s neighbor is genius.”


History students become familiar with another meaning of antithesis. Karl Marx borrowed from Friedrich Hegel a theory of the historical process having three stages: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Envisioning a classless society, Marx perceived economic modes of production as the concern of the first stage, or thesis; internal tensions and disagreements would follow as the second stage, or antithesis, and the resolution of differences would bring the third stage or synthesis, the completion of the cycle and the realization of the perfect socialist state.

15. epithet

Epi – Greek – “onward”


Definition: A word or phrase used positively or negatively that characterizes or describes a person or thing, added to or replacing a name.

Sentence: The repetition of epithets in The Odyssey such as “rosy-fingered dawn” and “grey-eyed Athena” served as a mnemonic for the minstrel as well as for the listener.



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