Spelling and pronunciation are important parts of vocabulary building. After all, if you don’t know how to spell a word, you won’t be able to incorporate it into your writing without causing confusion for your readers. If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, you’ll have the same problem when speaking. What’s more, spelling and pronunciation are closely linked, because when you’re practicing letter patterns it’s useful to also think about how those groups of letters are pronounced.
One of the more common letter patterns in English is IOU. As the IOUS suffix it’s added to nouns to turn them into adjectives that mean “full of [noun]” (it’s also spelled OUS or OSE or EOUS, depending on the base noun). Sometimes this noun-to-adjective link is fairly clear, when the noun itself is a common English word. For example, harmonious means “full of harmony,” but the word facetious doesn’t mean “full of facets” (this word comes into English as an adjective already, from 15th-century French based on the Latin word facetus meaning “joke, jest”). If you’re confused about the spelling, pronunciation, or history of any word, turn to your trusty dictionary for an explanation – you owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can about the vocabulary you study.
Definition: Secret, hidden, furtive, sneaky.
Example: A surreptitious glance at his neighbor’s exam paper gave George the right answer to question #5.
Definition: Well-known, influential, highly respected.
Example: The university has many prestigious neurobiologists on its teaching staff.
Definition: Famous, but not in a good way.
Example: She is notorious for always being late to meetings.
Definition: Always ready to fight or argue (person), or causing fights or arguments (thing).
Example: Gay marriage will continue to be a contentious issue for many years to come.
Definition: Damaging, harmful.
Example: We are only now discovering the deleterious effects of agricultural chemicals on fish and other aquatic species.
Definition: Extreme, very great, impressive.
Example: In mythology, Hercules’ prodigious strength allowed him to kill two large snakes that attacked him when he was merely a baby in his cradle.
Definition: Chatty, friendly, talkative.
Example: Shy, quiet people sometimes feel awkward at parties where everyone else is gregarious.