50 Great Words from "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," by Jonathan Safran-Foer

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definitions & notes only words
  1. entomology
    the branch of zoology that studies insects
    Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d'être, which is a French expression that I know.
  2. pacifist
    someone opposed to violence as a means of settling disputes
    I told him, "I'm a pacifist," and since most people my age don't know what that means, I turned around and told the others, "I don't think it's right to destroy people's privates.
  3. designation
    an identifying word or words by which something is called
    I climbed into the front seat and poked the driver's shoulder until he gave me some attention. "What. Is. Your. Designation." I asked in Stephen Hawking voice.
  4. reconnaissance
    the act of scouting, especially to gain information
    A great game that Dad and I would sometimes play on Sundays was Reconnaissance Expedition.
  5. revelation
    an enlightening or astonishing disclosure
    I had the revelation that I could connect the dots to make "cyborg," and "platypus," and "boobs," and even "Oskar," if you were extremely Chinese.
  6. orbit
    move in a path described by a body revolving around another
    Hawking tells about a famous scientist who was giving a lecture about how the earth orbits the sun, and the sun orbits the solar system, and whatever.
  7. rubbish
    worthless material that is to be disposed of
    Then a woman in the back of the room raised her hand and said, "What you have told us is rubbish.
  8. protege
    a person who receives support from an influential patron
    Can I please be your protégé?
  9. rhetorical
    relating to using language effectively
    'My question was rhetorical.'
  10. pathetic
    deserving or inciting pity
    To my unborn child: I haven't always been silent, I used to talk and talk and talk and talk, I couldn't keep my mouth shut, the silence overtook me like a cancer, it was one of my first meals in America, I tried to tell the waiter, 'The way you just handed me that knife, that reminds me of – ' but I couldn't finish the sentence, her name wouldn't come, I tried again, it wouldn't come, she was locked inside me, how strange, I thought, how frustrating, how pathetic, how sad, I took a pen from my p
  11. profound
    of the greatest intensity; complete
    'And' was the next word I lost, probably because it was so close to her name, what a simple word to say, what a profound word to lose, I had to say 'ampersand,' which sounded ridiculous, but there it is, 'I'd like a coffee ampersand something sweet,' nobody would choose to be like that.
  12. friction
    effort expended in moving one object over another
    I would answer, 'Not no,' but then I lost 'no,' I went to a tattoo parlor and had YES written onto the palm of my left hand, and NO onto my right palm, what can I say, it hasn't made life wonderful, it's made life possible, when I rub my hands against each other in the middle of winter I am warming myself with the friction of YES and NO, when I clap my hands I am showing my appreciation through the uniting and parting of YES and NO, I signify 'book' by peeling open my clapped hands, every book,
  13. signify
    denote or connote
    I would answer, 'Not no,' but then I lost 'no,' I went to a tattoo parlor and had YES written onto the palm of my left hand, and NO onto my right palm, what can I say, it hasn't made life wonderful, it's made life possible, when I rub my hands against each other in the middle of winter I am warming myself with the friction of YES and NO, when I clap my hands I am showing my appreciation through the uniting and parting of YES and NO, I signify 'book' by peeling open my clapped hands, every book,
  14. bliss
    a state of extreme happiness
    Does it break my heart, of course, every moment of every day, into more pieces than my heart was made of, I never thought of myself as quiet, much less silent, I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn't the world, it wasn't the bombs and burning buildings, it was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting go, is ignorance bliss, I don't know, but it's so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for
  15. contaminate
    make impure
    I had to be extremely careful so that I wouldn't contaminate the evidence, or let Mom know what I was doing, or cut and infect myself, and I found the envelope that the key was in.
  16. censor
    a person authorized to suppress unacceptable material
    Many words had been removed from the text by a censor.
  17. idiom
    a manner of speaking natural to a language's native speakers
    I wanted to learn idioms.
  18. assume
    take to be the case or to be true
    I assumed his hands were so rough from all of the sculptures he used to make.
  19. vast
    unusually great in size or amount or extent or scope
    So the Sahara is a vast desert.
  20. manipulate
    control or influence skillfully, usually to one's advantage
    'It was probably manipulated in Photoshop,' I said.
  21. souvenir
    a reminder of past events
    My brain opened a box with old atlases (where there were two Germanys and one Yugoslavia) and souvenirs from business trips, like Russian dolls with dolls inside them with dolls inside them with dolls inside them…Which of those things had Dad kept for when I had kids?
  22. retrieve
    get or find back; recover the use of
    It became difficult to navigate from Something to Something without accidentally walking through Nothing, and when Something – a key, a pen, a pocketwatch – was accidentally left in a Nothing Place, it never could be retrieved, that was an unspoken rule, like nearly all of our rules have been.
  23. assumption
    a hypothesis that is taken for granted
    The longer your mother and I lived together, the more we took each other's assumptions for granted, the less was said, the more misunderstood, I'd often remember having designated a space as Nothing when she was sure we had agreed that it was Something, our unspoken agreements led to disagreements, to suffering, I started to undress right in front of her, this was just a few months ago, and she said, 'Thomas!
  24. inevitable
    incapable of being avoided or prevented
    Everything was forever fixed, there would be only peace and happiness, it wasn't until last night, our last night together, that the inevitable question finally arose, I told her, 'Something,' by covering her face with my hands and then lifting them like a marriage veil.
  25. ovation
    enthusiastic recognition
    I know, because there was a standing ovation, which made me feel like one hundred dollars.
  26. infinite
    having no limits or boundaries in time or space
    I knew him, Horatio; a jerk of infinite stupidity, a most excellent masturbator in the second-floor boys' bathroom – I have proof.
  27. gibe
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs?
  28. gambol
    light-hearted recreational activity for amusement
    Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs?
  29. centrifugal
    tending to move away from the middle
    And centrifugal force.
  30. condescending
    characteristic of those who treat others with arrogance
    'You were being condescending.'
  31. replica
    copy that is not the original
    He said, 'It's a replica!'
  32. perpetual
    continuing forever or indefinitely
    As I walked up, I held the railing tight and started inventing things in my head: air bags for skyscrapers, solar-powered limousines that never had to stop moving, a frictionless, perpetual yo-yo.
  33. perceptive
    having the ability to understand
    I try to be a perceptive person who follows the scientific method and is observant, but I hadn't noticed before that the whole bed was completely covered in nails.
  34. radiant
    emanating or as if emanating light
    I explained, 'Because the radiant heat traveled in straight lines from the explosion, scientists were able to determine the direction toward the hypocenter from a number of different points, by observing the shadows cast by intervening objects.
  35. intervening
    occurring between events, spaces, or points in time
    I explained, 'Because the radiant heat traveled in straight lines from the explosion, scientists were able to determine the direction toward the hypocenter from a number of different points, by observing the shadows cast by intervening objects.
  36. indication
    the act of pointing out by name
    The shadows gave an indication of the height of the burst of the bomb, and the diameter of the ball of fire at the instant it was exerting the maximum charring effect.
  37. exert
    have and put to use
    The shadows gave an indication of the height of the burst of the bomb, and the diameter of the ball of fire at the instant it was exerting the maximum charring effect.
  38. enunciate
    express or state clearly
    Could you please repeat yourself and enunciate a little bit better.'
  39. invigorate
    heighten or intensify
    Mr. Black said, 'If anything, I'm invigorated.'
  40. mundane
    found in the ordinary course of events
    I imagined dozens of homes, some were magical (a clock tower with a stopped clock in a city where time stood still), some were mundane (a bourgois estate in the country with rose gardens and peacocks), each felt possible and perfec
    t, wonder if your mother ever saw them.
  41. facade
    the front of a building
    We ran out of the cellar, which was flooded with yellow-gray smoke, we didn't recognize anything, I had been on the stoop just half an hour before, and now there was no stoop in front of no house on no street, only fire in every direction, all that remained of our house was a patch of the facade that stubbornly held up the front door, a horse on fire galloped past, there were burning vehicles and carts with burning refugees, people were screaming, I told my parents I had to go find Anna...
  42. capable
    having ability
    For those few moments that the jumper was in the air, every New Yorker felt capable of flight.
  43. concession
    the act of yielding
    This was considered a concession, although no one knew why a concession was necessary, or why it was to children that this concession must be made.
  44. irrefutable
    impossible to deny or disprove
    'Well, that's good, because there's no irrefutable evidence.
  45. residue
    matter that remains after something has been removed
    Or maybe it's the residue of the dreams from that night the park was moved.
  46. ballast
    any heavy material used to stabilize a ship or airship
    But during another attempt, in September 1931, a navy blimp was almost upended, and nearly swept away the celebrities attending the historic affair, while the water ballast drenched pedestrians several blocks away.
  47. ultimately
    as the end result of a succession or process
    The mooring mast idea was ultimately abandoned, although it was very romantic.'
  48. detect
    discover or determine the existence, presence, or fact of
    DON'T WORRY! if the sick person's device didn't detect the device of someone he knew nearby.
  49. recede
    pull back or move away or backward
    'A millimeter at a time, the Sixth Borough receded from New York.
  50. revert
    go back to a previous state
    'The phone and electrical lines snapped, requiring Sixth Boroughers to revert to old-fashioned technologies, most of which resembled children's toys: they used magnifying glasses to reheat their carry-out; they folded important documents into paper airplanes and threw them from one office building into another; those fireflies in glass jars, which had once been used merely for decorative purposes during the festivals of the leap, were now found in every room of every home, taking the place of ar
Created on June 6, 2012 (updated June 10, 2012)

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