You may hate them, you may dread them, but there’s no way around it: SAT vocabulary words make you sound smarter. That might sound like an obnoxious way to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Indeed, toss out “pusillanimous,” “pulchritudinous,” or “lugubrious” and you’ll likely find yourself banished from polite society.
Then there are those words that, when wielded at the right moment, will make you sound sophisticated beyond your years. But I’m not just going to give you any four SAT words that’ll confer sophistication upon the user. Instead, I’m going to choose four words that are all about learning and sophistication—or a lack thereof.
You don’t have to read the complete works of Plato or belt out ten soliloquies from Shakespeare to be erudite. Anybody who is scholarly—meaning they like to hang out in libraries or can answer half the questions in Jeopardy! correctly—is worthy of the title “erudite.”
The word actually comes from the old root “ex-” (meaning “out”) and “rudus” (meaning “rude” and “unsophisticated”). If you already knew that, you are quite erudite! The next time you want to refer to a learned person—whether they are a Supreme Court justice or a NASA scientist–you can say they are erudite (the word can also work as a noun, i.e., “he is an erudite; don’t try to outsmart him!”).
Learning and sophistication isn’t just about the books; traveling around the world and becoming familiar with other cultures is to be cosmopolitan. “Kosmo-” is Greek for “world” and “polites” means “citizen.” So if you are cosmopolitan in your sensibilities, you are a citizen of the world.
In the upcoming elections, if it turns out that a candidate has never left the United States, you might wryly observe that they are “not the most cosmopolitan of candidates.”
Sometimes learning goes too far, as when the erudite decides to show off all his knowledge in an irritating manner. So if the kid in your class who, without studying, got 5’s on all the AP exams begins to talk about how 22/7 is too liberal an interpretation of π and then begins to recite the first fifty-seven digits of π, well, he’s being frighteningly pedantic.
Of course, sometimes the world isn’t full of sophistication, and you have to be able to point out its opposite. Instead of just calling someone stupid (which isn’t very nice anyhow), you can say that so-and-so is being obtuse.
A good way to remember this word is to think back to geometry class: an obtuse angle is one that is very large (greater than 90 degrees), whereas an acute angle is one that is very sharp (less than 90 degrees). To be acute is to be intelligent, which is the opposite of obtuse.
These words should merely be used to show sophistication and refinement in your SAT writing. So don’t go around calling everybody obtuse or pedantic or you’ll likely come across as one—or both—of those words.