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Vocabulary List: Words from Political Scandals

Wow, do we have a lot of these. I can’t think of a year (okay, a week) that goes by without some epic, sordid scandal exploding onto the airwaves. You know, the kind that has mothers running to cover their children’s eyes, and the cynics emitting guffaws of “I told you so”! In dishonor, so to speak, of these scandals, we have the following GRE words.

Note:  I will be politic (wise and judicious) here, and avoid mentioning any names.


Malfeasance is wrongdoing, usually by a public official. Oftentimes, you hear the term corporate malfeasance—this type of wrongdoing occurs when somebody in the business world is up to no good. Typically, though, malfeasance is used in the context of politics. And, not to sound too cynical, but one usually doesn’t have to look much further than one’s local news to find example of malfeasance—political or corporate.


Lascivious, like lecherous, prurient, and libidinous, all refer to perversion. In terms of linking these words to the world of politics…well, given the events of the last few months, I don’t think I need to elaborate. Just make sure to lock your hotel room doors.


To become caught up in a scandal is to become embroiled in it. In the last couple of months, a few well-known politicians (again, not naming any names) have become embroiled in scandals. From the verb embroiled, we get the noun imbroglio, which is an embarrassing, confusing situation.

These days we are never short of a D.C. imbroglio – a welcome phenomenon for those who, having barely finished feasting on the sordid details of one scandal, can sink their teeth into a fresh one.


If you’ve ever heard of a government taking bribes, well, that is an example of venality. To be venal is to be corrupt. Of late, charges of venality tend to be few, though such charges simply don’t make the same headlines as scandals of the lecherous kind.


If you’ve ever seen a politician caught in a lie (never!), and that person is trying to wiggle their way out of a pointed question, he (or she) is prevaricating. Not that a U.S. president would ever prevaricate by talking about the household pet when confronted with charges of venality.


Sometimes lechery and its synonymous friends are  just too soft when describing certain acts of malfeasance. At the far ends of the political spectrum, where outrage is felt most keenly, people feel the need to invoke far harsher vocabulary when condemning naughty behavior. One such word is turpitude, which gained prominence in the late 90’s (Google will fill in the blanks). A synonym for depravity, turpitude is only reserved for those acts deemed to be downright wicked and immoral. If you need further explication, imagine the final days of the Roman Empire.

So, next time (tomorrow), when the latest political scandal breaks, remember these words. I’m sure some, if not all, will apply.
To find more themed vocab lists, check out the posts in the category Mnemonics and Tips for Memorizing Words, using this method for building your vocabulary arsenal. Remember, practice makes perfect!

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