This Week in Words: September 15 - 21, 2018

News flash! We’ve rounded up the top words heard, read, debated and discussed in the news this week. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. abdicate
    give up, such as power, as of monarchs and emperors
    “Today's announcement of the abysmally-low refugee cap set by the Trump Administration is a shameful abdication of our humanity in the face of the worst refugee crisis in history.” -USA Today (Sept. 17, 2018)
    It was announced this week that the government will limit the number of refugees it allows into the country to 30,000 people per year. Critics of this move say that it a betrayal of the promise that America symbolizes to the rest of the world, while supporters of the measure say that immigration must be curbed.
  2. askance
    with suspicion or disapproval
    In a way, it was surprising to see the New York-based “S.N.L.” front and center at the Emmys. The Television Academy, the main body behind the awards, has looked askance at the show for most of its 43-year run. -The New York Times (Sept.18, 2018)
    The 70th Annual Emmy Awards for excellence in television were presented this week. Game of Thrones and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel were the big winners at the ceremony, which also featured a surprise marriage proposal by one of the winners to his girlfriend. She said “yes.”
  3. coffer
    a chest especially for storing valuables
    It will be a lot of money coming into the coffers of the United States of America. A lot of money coming in, but you’ll be seeing what we’re doing right after close of business today,” Mr. Trump said during remarks at the White House on Monday. - (Sept. 17,2018)
    The Trump administration is instituting another $200 billion worth of tariffs against Chinese goods, escalating the trade dispute between the two countries. What's different about this round of tariffs is that they will now directly effect the price of a whole host of consumer goods, like vacuum cleaners, handbags and seafood. Previous tariffs affected industrial products, such as steel.
  4. emanate
    proceed or issue forth, as from a source
    Then, one day in 1967, she discovered four gently pulsing sources of radio waves that were emanating from different points in the galaxy—and knew she’d discovered something important. - (Sept. 16, 2018)
    It was announced this week that an oversight in the history of science will be rectified. Jocelyn Bell Burnell was a graduate student when she conducted research that was instrumental in discovering pulsars. The professor she worked for at the time was later awarded the Nobel Prize, but Burnell herself was not eligible. Now, Burnell, decades later, has been awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and 3 million dollars in recognition of her contribution.
  5. exempt
    freed from or not subject to an obligation or liability
    The Apple Watch, AirPods and Mac Mini, its compact personal computer, were all exempted from the tariffs, although accessories such as adapters, chargers and leather covers and cases for its products were not. -USA Today (Sept. 18, 2018)
    Many Apple products are made in China, so how will they be affected by the new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration? It turns out that several of Apple’s products are exempt from the tariffs, which means they'll avoid an increase in manufacturing costs which often result in higher prices for the consumer. There is no word on whether the new generation of iPhones will also be exempt from the tariffs.
  6. galvanize
    stimulate to action
    Prince’s 2007 performance — which saw him playing a galvanizing version of “Purple Rain” in a rainstorm — is widely regarded as the all-time best halftime set. - (Sept. 19, 2018)
    Pop group Maroon 5 will be the halftime entertainment at the next Super Bowl halftime show, which usually features a mainstream act. In recent years Bruno Mars, Beyonce and Lady Gaga landed the coveted spot. Maroon 5 has had many hits and should be able to fill out the half hour set with songs the crowd knows. In this example sentence, galvanizing means "thrilling" or "electric" in a metaphorical sense, rather than signifying a literal "call to action."
  7. mitigation
    the action of lessening in severity or intensity
    “So as we approach recovery, both short-term and long-term, we will have to look at flooded property, work on mitigation and buyouts, and being smart about how we recover and make sure that we’re involving local, state and federal officials.” - The New York Times (Sept.18, 2018)
    Hurricane Florence devastated the Carolinas last week. More than thirty people are reported dead so far. Property damage is so extensive and so widespread that it will be a while before the full impact is really known. Thousands have been flooded out of their homes by torrential rains which dumped 8 trillion gallons of water on the Carolinas alone.
  8. onerous
    burdensome or difficult to endure
    The store has only limited opening hours and inventory, as it sorts out both the technology and San Francisco’s onerous permitting process. - USA Today (Sept.17, 2018)
    Next year in Chicago, Amazon will open its first cashier-less store outside of hits home city of Seattle. In cashier-less stores cameras keep track of what you buy, and there is no typical transaction at the register. Instead, your purchase are charged to your Amazon account. The technology isn’t perfect yet, particularly when it comes to shoplifting, but customers at the Seattle stores say that the experience has redefined the convenience store.
  9. philanthropic
    of or relating to charitable giving
    The philanthropic effort will divide its money between the Day 1 Families Fund, which will help homeless families, and the Day 1 Academics Fund, which will create a “network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities.” (Sept. 15, 2018)
    Jeff Bezos, founder of, is making a major charitable contribution. Bezos and his wife are giving $2 billion to an organization that helps the homeless and another organization that provides preschool education to underprivileged children. Critics have charged Bezos with trying to deflect criticism of how Amazon’s workers are treated by making such a high profile donation.
  10. punitive
    inflicting punishment
    Combined with goods already hit with punitive levies, the total would exceed the $505 billion in Chinese goods the U.S. imported last year. - The Wall Street Journal ( Sept. 18, 2018)
    In response to the new tariffs the Trump administration announced this week, China retaliated with some $60 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. exports. Experts warn that all this posturing may impact U.S.-Chinese relations in other areas. The countries still have to work together on numerous international issues, and bad blood between them could be dangerous.

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.