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Lucas Fink

Megalo-mnemonical SAT Vocab: Words from Starcraft

There are a few different reactions the word “Starcraft” in that title might’ve evoked:

1. Huh? Is that a game?

2. Yeah, I know that game.

3. Hey! I love that game.

4. Hey! I love that sport!

Besides that, you probably also thought, “Man, that’s a weird place to get SAT vocab from.” And you’d be right. This post is for a niche market. In order to make the mnemonics here really effective, you have to have played Starcraft (either the original or the second one) a few times, because the vocab we’re going to get into comes from the names of characters and buildings in the game.

Specifically, it’s the Protoss that use SAT vocab. They’re all advanced and whatnot with their high-tech magic, so they use big academic words to name things. Naturally.

That being said, even if you aren’t a Starcraft geek, stick around. You might learn something useful anyway.



The Starcraft link: They’re the most basic Protoss fighting unit, and they have the best name in the game, if you ask me.

The meaning: Zealots are diehard believers. They’re usually religious fanatics, but they could be fighting for any higher cause. You could be an animal rights zealot, for example. As long as you’re going to fight passionately for your beliefs, then that word—or a related word like zealous (passionate) or zeal (passion)—is a good fit.

The mnemonic: In the original Starcraft, Zealots say “My life for Aiur” every time they’re…uhh…born? Trained?. (Aiur is their homeworld.) They’re willing to give their lived for the cause. In other words, they’re zealots.



The Starcraft link: The building that collects natural gas is an “assimilator.” It’s a pretty boring building, really. But while we’re on that topic, what’re assimilators doing with that vespene gas that they harvest, anyway? If the Protoss are so advanced, why are they still using damn fossil fuels?

The meaning: If you’ve heard or read the word “assimilate” before, it might’ve been in the context of cultural assimilation. In that case, the meaning is really close to “integration,” which is joining and becoming a seamless part of something. But “assimilate” isn’t just that; it’s also “absorb.” You might assimilate new concepts from math class, for example.

The mnemonic: There must be some step between that natural gas and its use in the telepathic mumbo-jumbo that is Protoss technology. The assimilator is what makes the conversion. It assimilates the gas to their future-world energy system.



The Starcraft link: Unlike zealots, arbiters aren’t fighters—they mostly just sit around and make everyone around them invisible. It’s kind of like a crummy version of one of the most-wished for superpowers. Everybody can still see you… but your friends get to do whatever they want. And guess who’ll get the blame when they wreak havoc.

The meaning: An arbiter is a judge or mediator. Arbitrating is coming into some conflict from outside (and with an unbiased opinion) and settling it by making a decision. The word “arbitrary,” on the other hand, is a little bit different; we use it to mean something like “random” more often than not. It originally meant coming from a personal decision rather than a system’s rules, but now it means from a whim rather than any concrete reason. So an arbiter might arbitrate, but it’d be confusing to call that decision arbitrary. A good judge has reasons for their decision.

The mnemonic: Arbiters don’t actually make any judgments in Starcraft, but they do show up in the middle of a fight without a whole lot of aggression. A good mediator would do just that if they wanted to arbitrate.


About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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