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Lucas Fink

Megalo-mnemonical Vocab: Why Use Mnemonics for SAT Words?

Megalomaniacal + mnemonics = megalomnemonical

Megalomania is the delusion that you are god-like, a desire to conquer the world, like classic comic book villains. Mnemonics are phrases or associations to help rote memorization, like PEMDAS or SOHCAHTOA. If we put them together, we have an obsessive need to conquer the entirety of SAT vocab using memory aids.


Why mnemonics help to study SAT vocab

We all know that flashcards are a good way to study SAT vocabulary, and reading can be a great study aid, too. But for those to work, we need to be able to retain the information, and many studies have shown that creating associations between new study material and older stored information is one of the most effective ways to bridge the gap between short-term and long-term memory.

That’s what mnemonics can do, and they’re are a fantastic tool for SAT vocab. That’s best proven by example, so let’s look at a few and decide if you agree.



Meaning: A jingoist is a patriot, basically, but an extreme and aggressive one. It’s a pretty negative word that can pretty easily get tied together with xenophobia (fear of foreigners).

Example: The rising jingoism around Indian-Pakistani relations has many fearing that the situation might escalate to war.

Mnemonic: The root “jingo” sounds a lot like “Django” (as in the recent Tarantino movie), so let’s use that. Based on U.S. law at the time, you can bet that Django was anything but a jingoist.



Meaning: Pugnacious is pretty close match in meaning to argumentative. A pugnacious person will constantly disagree and start arguments or fights. They’re hard to get along with.

Example: There are a handful of pugnacious board members who have been making it difficult to settle on an agreement.

Mnemonic: Pugnacious is probably the only word in English that starts with the sound pug other than that breed of dog. Great. My pug is nasty… you might even say pugnacious.



Meaning: Ephemeral things come and go—they are not permanent, and they don’t have effect on the world for very long.

Example: The beauty of autumn in New England is, unfortunately, ephemeral. If you don’t visit in the right weeks, you’ll miss it entirely.

Mnemonic: Lets use that fem sound but also pair it with another ph word that carries a related meaning. The ephemeral female disappeared—she was only a phantom.



When studying to SAT vocab, tie as many words into mnemonic sentences as you can, no matter how outlandish or half-baked they may seem. Often, the stranger they are, the better you’ll remember them. Can you remember the words above without looking back using the mnemonics given?

Keep your eyes open for more megalomnemonical posts to keep building that vocabulary for your test day.


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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