101 College Vocabulary Words You Should Know

college vocabulary words

There aren’t any workbooks of college vocabulary words, and that’s a shame.

Remember those vocabulary workbooks you had to go through in grade school? If your school was like mine, we had a new chapter each week with 20 different vocabulary words.

We would first have to memorize the words. Then pick their meaning in multiple choice questions. And then to make sure we really understood them, we would have to write sentences and use the word correctly.

It would be kind of ridiculous to do a vocab workbook in a college course. Although I think college students who don’t utilize the benefits of reading end up with weak vocabulary skills.

And then when it’s time to write a paper, give a class presentation, or communicate good interview answers, they lack the right words that would help them give the best impression.

Instead, they’re stuck saying “like”, “very,” “you know what I mean,” and “awesome” in every other sentence.

To address this need, I went overboard and compiled a list of 101 college vocabulary words to improve your speech and writing.

This list started at 50 words, then I got ambitious and went for 75 because I had more to say. Then I went ham to reach 101 words. And this list is in alphabetical order.

You’ll see that I didn’t try to find the biggest words, but I aimed to find the most practical words that you might not know or would give you a helpful refresher.

If you’re really up for a challenge, aim to use one of these words in conversation or your writing each day.

(If you’re a foreign student or someone completely new to the English language, you should also buy a dictionary to keep by your side.)

Alright, don’t hold your breath when reading because, as I mentioned, this is a long list.

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101 College Vocabulary Words

1. adulation — excessive flattery or praise

Used in a sentence: Self-adulation is one of the worst traits of good leaders because it leads them to corruption.

2. adulterate — make something worse by adding to it

Used in a sentence: To get his kids bigger, the parent adulterated their chocolate smoothie by mixing in protein the kids didn’t know about until tasting.

3. aesthetic — relating to beauty

Used in a sentence: Anyone who sees the celebrity’s mansion that overlooks the ocean will have an aesthetic appreciation for the home.

4. amicable — friendly and agreeable spirit

Used in a sentence: When you’re looking for sympathy, find an amicable friend who will help you relax.

5. amok — behave in an out of control fashion

Used in a sentence: After Jenny saw a shark in the ocean 25 feet away, she swam amok to the beach.

6. analogous — comparable or similar

Used in a sentence: Samantha’s new boyfriend looks analogous to her previous ex-boyfriends.

7. antithesis the exact opposite of someone, something, or some idea

Used in a sentence: The two presidential candidates are the antithesis to each other when it comes to their beliefs on foreign policy: one prefers isolationism and the other prefers interventionism.

8. apathetic having no emotion, feeling, or concern

Used in a sentence: The defense lawyer’s appeal for mercy on his client’s 5-year prison sentence didn’t sway the apathetic judge.

9. assuage — to provide relief and make less intense

Used in a sentence: After the E. coli outbreak in its restaurants, Chipotle assuaged its customers with an offer for a free burrito.

10. asylum — protection granted by a country for a political refugee who has left their native country, or a place of safety

Used in a sentence: Many political refugees seek asylum when they believe they will be killed in their native country if they’re forced to return.

11. audacious — willing to take bold risks

Used in a sentence: Alexander the Great is known as an audacious leader who conquered an indescribable amount of land during his reign as king.

12. banal — lacking originality so it’s boring

Used in a sentence: If you want the same movie over and over again, even if it’s your favorite it will turn banal.

13. binary something that consists of two parts

Used in a sentence: The binary compound, which contains two rare chemicals, needs to be investigated further before a comment is made.

14. buttress — something that gives support to another structure

Used in a sentence: If buildings aren’t designed with a proper buttress, they’re likely to break the fire code because they could collapse with enough stress.

15. carpe diem the idea of living in the moment and not worrying about the future (translates to “seize the day”)

Used in a sentence: I didn’t want to go out, but my housemate said, “It’s senior year and we won’t get to do this after we graduate, carpe diem.”

16. cartographer — one who creates maps

Used in a sentence: Where they previously had to sketch terrains and locations by hand, cartographers have utilized computer software to create stunning maps.

17. caveat — a warning about a particular statement that should be remembered

Used in a sentence: Stores will offer amazing discount deals to their customers, only to include a major caveat when they check out that makes the offer less of a home run.

18. circumspect carefully thinking about all the possible consequences and effects before doing something

Used in a sentence: To keep his reputation in good shape with his colleagues, Dr. Huiyt acted circumspect with his finding before publishing it in Scientific American.

19. clairvoyant — seeing events in the future

Used in a sentence: If I was clairvoyant about future sporting events, you better believe I would go to Vegas and make millions off of sports bets.

20. colloquial — using informal language in conversation

Used in a sentence: Instead of speaking eloquently like his father and grandfather before him, the new king used colloquial style to address the middle class audience.

21. condone — to accept and allow

Used in a sentence: What is condoned in a fraternity house, wouldn’t be condoned in a church.

22. conformist — a person who accepts established behavior

Used in a sentence: You’ll find all rebels on the road less travelled and the conformists in the crowd.

23. crude — in a natural or raw state

Used in a sentence: People without a filter for their words often get in trouble for their crude jokes and expressions.

24. daunting — task that appears difficult to complete, intimidating

Used in a sentence: Living abroad in China for an extended period when you don’t know any Mandarin is a daunting task.

25. decorum — behavior that is well-mannered

Used in a sentence: It’s easy to be a sore loser, but it’s hard to show decorum after losing a championship game.

26. diatribe — abusive and bitter attack through speech or writing

Used in a sentence: Many employees would make a diatribe against their boss if there was no risk of getting fired because of it.

27. dichotomy — a difference between two opposite things

Used in a sentence: There’s a big dichotomy of nature or nurture being more influential in human development.

28. diction — the clearness and effectiveness of enunciation when speaking, or choice of words

Used in a sentence: I didn’t enjoy the play’s opening scene because the actor’s diction and accent made it impossible to hear.

29. didactic — designed to teach people something

Used in a sentence: Teachers who implement didactic and engaging lessons are the ones who help students get the most out of class each day.

30. digress — to go off on a tangent, leave the main subject

Used in a sentence: Although she’s funny, Mrs. Hess would digress too often during class that she always fell behind what she wanted to cover in class.

31. discern — to perceive or recognize something

Used in a sentence: People who are lying tend to look the other person in the eyes for longer because they need to discern if the other person believes them or not.

32. disingenuous — not honest or sincere

Used in a sentence: You can handle a disingenuous salesman, but you don’t want anything to do with a disingenuous doctor.

33. disparate — different from each other, unlike

Used in a sentence: In the 17th century, groups had disparate ideas about the earth being flat or round.

34. e.g. — for example

Used in a sentence: You’d be amazed if you knew all the revenue produced by the top NCAA football programs, e.g. Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame.

35. eclectic — elements from a diverse range of sources

Used in a sentence: Professor Riesling backed up his opinion with an eclectic collection of evidence dating back from 1934 to the present.

36. emulate — match something or something, imitate

Used in a sentence: Little boys like to emulate their father’s words and actions, which is why it’s crucial that the father is a good role model.

37. erudite — having or showing great knowledge

Used in a sentence: If you go to a Rhodes Scholars meeting, you’re going to find a bunch of erudite students in different subjects.

38. eschew — deliberately avoid using something

Used in a sentence: Many alcoholics know that they would be happier if they would eschew from drinking, but they don’t have the self-will to do that.

39. ethereal — extremely light and delicate that seems heavenly

Used in a sentence: The singer’s ethereal voice carried the note so beautifully that I couldn’t believe it.

40. exacerbate — to turn an already bad situation worse

Used in a sentence: He already felt shameful after losing his job, and his girlfriend breaking up with him an hour later only exacerbated his mood.

41. existential relating to human existence or the experience of existing

Used in a sentence: A traumatic experience of losing a loved one or going to jail can create an existential crisis of where one questions why they’re on earth.

42. extrapolate — to predict or estimate something based on known information

Used in a sentence: Based on the unique wounds of each victim, the detective extrapolated that the murders in March and September are connected.

43. formidable — something that inspires fear or respect

Used in a sentence: The 1985 Chicago Bears had the most formidable defense in NFL history.

44. hackneyed — overused to the point it lacks significance

Used in a sentence: The same hackneyed commercials you see each time you watch a specific television show can get very annoying.

45. halcyon — calm and peaceful

Used in a sentence: When you go paddle boarding as a beginner, it’s much easier to learn on lake water with halcyon waves than the ocean’s wild waves.

46. haughty — arrogant and unfriendly

Used in a sentence: Haughty people make it hard on themselves to find friends, that’s why you’ll see down-to-earth people who always attract a group of friends everywhere they go.

47. i.e. — that is

Used in a sentence: Sometimes the best offense is a good defense and they don’t have it, i.e., a defense that creates turnovers for easy scores.

48. iconoclast — someone who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions

Used in a sentence: Elon Musk is an iconoclast who believes humans are going to live on Mars one day.

49. indenture — a formal contract or document

Used in a sentence: The government of Papua New Guinea agreed to pay for the student to study overseas if he signed an indenture document to come back to work for the government for two years.

50. indolent — wanting to avoid activity or work

Used in a sentence: Indolent people are hard for me to understand, because hard work always pays off to some degree.

51. juxtaposition — the fact of placing two things side by side, usually in contrast

Used in a sentence: When guys continue to skip leg day and only exercise arms, it’s hilarious to view the juxtaposition of their upper body with their lower body.

52. laconic — using very few words, brief

Used in a sentence: I cancelled the service because of my consultant’s laconic instructions that didn’t give me the clarity I needed.

53. leery — cautious based on suspicions

Used in a sentence: Any online business that promises to make you rich quick should make you leery.

54. loquacious — a very talkative person

Used in a sentence: It’s odd when there are two twins, and one is shy and the other is loquacious.

55. matriculate — become a student at a college or university

Used in a sentence: When you have a solid high school GPA and high ACT or SAT score, schools will offer you big scholarships to matriculate at their university.

56. maverick — an independent-minded person

Used in a sentence: If you’re going to be a maverick and do something different, you better be right or the kickback will be hard to swallow.

57. melancholy — a feeling of sadness, depression, or unhappiness

Used in a sentence: Checking Facebook to see pictures of her ex-boyfriend go on vacation with his new girlfriend gave her melancholy thoughts.

58. monetary — relating to money or currency

Used in a sentence: The monetary and psychological benefits of getting reimbursed for gas can go a long way for company morale.

59. myriad — an extremely large, uncountable number of things

Used in a sentence: The couple set up camp in the desert, laid down, and then stared at the myriad of stars across the sky.

60. nefarious — extremely wicked and evil

Used in a sentence: You would have to be nefarious to join the mob and commit crimes on innocent people.

61. obfuscate — make something unclear and obscure

Used in a sentence: The mob is notorious for having people obfuscate the truth with their backdoor deals and money laundering.

62. onerous — involving great effort and difficulty

Used in a sentence: Parents with a new-born baby face the onerous task of taking care of a helpless human life while they get almost zero sleep during the process.

63. orator — one who excels at speaking in public

Used in a sentence: President Obama stood out among other presidential candidates because he’s a master orator.

64. paragon — a model of excellence or perfection

Used in a sentence: Mother Theresa is the paragon of virtue and kindness.

65. partisan — strongly in favor of a person or cause

Used in a sentence: People who take a statement out of context for their partisan view are the worst to talk to.

66. patrician — someone related to a noble or wealthy family

Used in a sentence: Attending boarding school and then Harvard is a patrician upbringing with advantages that other kids dream of.

67. pedagogy — the method and practice of teaching in education

Used in a sentence: Each state requires new teachers to pass pedagogy exams in order to get certified.

68. pedantic — obsessing over little details and rules

Used in a sentence: The best newspaper editors have a pedantic approach to their work, because if they didn’t they’d be out of a job.

69. pejorative — negative language that is used to belittle or criticize

Used in a sentence: The political attack ads use heavy doses of pejorative language to sway voters minds.

70. piety — respect and devotion to a religion or higher power

Used in a sentence: His piety is unquestioned after gave up his corporate job so he could spread Christianity across the world.

71. pragmatic — concentrating on practical results and facts instead of opinion

Used in a sentence: A pragmatic president would seek the counsel of his cabinet before making key decisions.

72. preamble — an opening statement that prepares what’s to come

Used in a sentence: An effective preamble will raise the audience’s anticipation and excitement for the talk.

73. pristine — still pure and in its original condition

Used in a sentence: To make sure the “Mona Lisa” stays as pristine as possible, the famous art is protected inside a sealed enclosure, with thick glass, and a temperature controlled climate.

74. prognosticate — to forecast the future

Used in a sentence: Palm readers claim to prognosticate your major life events based on the lines in your palm.

75. prohibition — an act of forbidding something

Used in a sentence: During the 1920s and early 1930s, the US government placed a prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

76. prone — likely to do something

Used in a sentence: Criminals who get out of jail without a change of heart are prone to commit another crime and go back to jail.

77. prudent — having wisdom with the future in mind

Used in a sentence: Warren Buffett is the most prudent investor of all time in most people’s opinion.

78. quibble — a minor objection or criticism

Used in a sentence: Rich people don’t quibble over tipping and service charges like the middle-class and poor do.

79. quintessential — a perfect, model example of a specific quality

Used in a sentence: The quintessential meathead goes to the gym twice a day to stack muscle onto his already huge arms, bouldered shoulders, and athletic legs.

80. relegate — dismiss to a lower rank or less important position

Used in a sentence: European soccer team Hull City were relegated from the Premier League in 2015.

81. renege — to not fulfill a commitment

Used in a sentence: Boxers who renege on their deal to show up and fight can get sued by the event promoters.

82. rescind — to take back, repeal

Used in a sentence: The informant lied to the FBI so the government had to rescind his immunity.

83. sage — a very wise person

Used in a sentence: Ambitious business people could speed up their career achievement by finding a sage in their field to mentor them.

84. salient — most important or prominent

Used in a sentence: When you’re choosing what job to take, it’s helpful to know your salient priority: salary, location, culture, opportunity, etc.

85. simpleton — a foolish or gullible person

Used in a sentence: No one in their right mind would call Aristotle a simpleton.

86. shoddy — poorly made or done

Used in a sentence: The phrase “you get what you pay for” highlights the idea that a cheap rate will often lead to shoddy work.

87. shrewd — having or displaying sharp judgement, being clever

Used in a sentence: You’d be a fool to trust your money with some gambler, but trust your money with a shrewd investor and you will make a fortune.

88. spurious — not real or genuine

Used in a sentence: Spurious headlines about celebrities dying are all over the internet as websites use this scam to get more page views.

89. stoic someone who can persevere through pain or struggle without complaining

Used in a sentence: Normally a stoic, Malachi wept in emotion after hearing the bad news about his hometown.

90. sublime — something excellent, awe-inspiring, or impressive

Used in a sentence: Eating McDonald’s every day will not help you achieve the sublime figure you’re looking to have by this summer.

91. supercilious — behaving as one is superior to others

Used in a sentence: The March Madness bracket pool champion usually responds in a supercilious manner, not recognizing that a lot of luck carried them to victory.

92. superfluous — more than enough

Used in a sentence: When a suspect answers a question so many times it seems superfluous, they often get upset and frustrated in front of the police.

93. symbiotic — relationships between people that are mutually beneficial, or dependent, to each other

Used in a sentence: While celebrities may act like they hate the public attention, celebrities and the media have a symbiotic relationship with one another.

94. syntax — rules that dictate how words are used to form phrases and sentences

Used in a sentence: The media director scolded the intern for publishing the press release that had incorrect syntax.

95. transcendent — beyond the ordinary experience

Used in a sentence: The main claims he had a transcendent encounter with an alien.

96. ubiquitous — seen nearly everywhere you go

Used in a sentence: Apple’s iPhones are ubiquitous across the world, which is why they bring in billions of dollars a year.

97. unilateral — action that is done by or affects only one side

Used in a sentence: When a husband or wife makes a unilateral decision, unhappiness and distrust results from the other side because of the lack of communication and compromise.

98. vernacular — the language spoken by people of a certain region or group

Used in a sentence: When appealing to the common people, it’s a wise move to use their vernacular instead of fancy language.

99. vilify — to communicate very harsh things about someone

Used in a sentence: Newspapers who unfairly vilify private citizens open themselves to be sued for slander.

100. vindicate — to clear from blame or suspicion

Used in a sentence: New DNA evidence vindicated the 40-year-old man who was previously serving time for a crime he didn’t commit.

101. zealot — someone who is uncompromising and fanatical about an ideal

Used in a sentence: Since Bob is a zealot for the New York Yankees, he’s bought season tickets for the past 17 years in a row.

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Brian Robben

Brian Robben is the founder of Take Your Success, a site dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs grow a profitable business and reach freedom. For in-depth training, visit: brianrobben.com