There’s an SAT level vocab word for you: chimera. What is it? In Greek mythology, it was one of those hybrid animals, like a griffin or a minotaur. Specifically, it was an animal made from parts of a lion, a goat, and a snake. A franken-beast. In English, the word sometimes means a dream that won’t ever be a reality (like a mermaid).
The SAT words below are chimeras in the old sense of the word. Each one looks a bit like two other, more common words stitched together, and you can actually remember their meanings from those pieces. We don’t even need mnemonic sentences with these words, unlike other SAT vocab.
Mnemonic: progress + diagnosis
What prognosis means: If you’ve heard this word before, there’s a pretty good chance Dr. House is the one who said it. A prognosis is very close in meaning to a diagnosis; both are things a doctor says about a disease or condition. The difference is that a diagnosis is just the identification of the problem. A prognosis is a prediction of its progress—whether it will get better or worse, and how quickly.
Mnemonic: icon + clash
What iconoclast means: An iconoclast is a special type of rebel. They attack sacred or dearly loved institutions. The original meaning is specifically a person who destroys religious symbols (statues, crosses, etc.), but it can be used to describe anybody who attacks a long-standing, generally unquestioned belief. It’s not a negative word, exactly, but it implies a bit of extremism.
Mnemonic: obvious + intrusive
What obtrusive means: You know the phrase “stick out like a sore thumb”? Imagine an island beach with white sand and clear water. The sky is the color of blue kool-aid, and there’s not a single person in sight. But there’s a run-down metal trailer in the middle of it all. And next to the trailer, there’s a porta potty. It stands out, and you really don’t want it there. That’s obtrusive.
Pay attention to similar sounding words
Any time you see a word on your SAT that looks like another word (or combination of words), make note. It might not have the same meaning, but there’s a pretty good chance they’re related, and if you’re stuck choosing between two words you don’t know in a sentence completion question, that’s a good way to make a decision.
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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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