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In Defense of a Liberal Education: Glossary

Resources to enrich and support the FYS summer reading experience

About the glossary

Glossary of terms used in the book

About the glossary

This glossary was created with English language learners in mind, but is a resource for all students. Definitions offered are intended to help students understand the use of these words by the author in this book.

Most definitions are from, or adapted from:

esp. = especially

Printable versions


Some terms used throughout the book:

humanism = a system of thought that focuses on humans and their values, capacities, and worth

humanities = those branches of knowledge, such as philosophy, literature, and art, that are concerned with human thought and culture

innovative = new and different

liberal arts = study directed towards a general broadening of the mind; directed towards the cultivation of the mind for its own sake...not restricted to technical or professional education

professions = occupations, such as law, medicine, or engineering, that requires considerable training and specialized study.

trades = occupations, esp. one requiring skilled labor; craft: e.g., the building trades

vocational = relating to training in a special skill to be pursued in a trade or vocation

Chapter 1: Coming to America

Page 15

coding = writing computer code, programming computers

take it public = make a company public by selling stocks in the company that can be traded in an open market

electrical engineering = the branch of engineering that deals with the technology of electricity, especially the design and application of circuitry and equipment for power generation and distribution, machine control, and communications

liberal arts = study directed towards a general broadening of the mind; directed towards the cultivation of the mind for its own sake...not restricted to technical or professional education

Page 16

classic = serving as the established model or standard

conservatives = those with a certain political orientation, believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society

liberals = those with a certain political orientation favoring reform, less bound by traditional thinking, believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change

For more of an understanding of conservatism and liberalism in the U.S, see

Basic: Liberalism vs. Conservatism from Student News Daily

Basic: Political Ideology from an online political science course


Encyclopedia of American Studies from John Hopkins University Press (2016)

Liberalism   |    Conservatism

(Look for link to "Translate Entry" into 60 different languages)

elitist = antidemocratic, as if a certain privileged group is more deserving

Page 17

trade school = preparing students for occupations, especially one requiring skilled labor; craft: e.g., the building trades

Page 18

job market = the number of jobs that are available in a particular place or for a particular type of work

technical training = training for skills, especially in the manual trades, health care, computer technology, etc. Of or relating to the practical, mechanical, or industrial arts or to the applied sciences

scientific literacy = basic knowledge of science

engineering = the application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems

humanities = those branches of knowledge, such as philosophy, literature, and art, that are concerned with human thought and culture

rhetoric = the art or study of using language effectively and persuasively, speech

Page 19

subsidize = to assist or support financially

private sector = part of the economy that is controlled by individuals or private organizations and is not funded by the government

manufacturing = the business of producing goods in factories

Page 20

independents = those people not belonging to a political party

irrelevance = quality of being unrelated to a topic

bipartisan =  supported by members of two parties, especially two major political parties

proponents = those in favor of something, for it

virtues = positive qualities

opponents = those opposed or against something

counterproductive = not productive, unhelpful

professions = occupations

apprenticeships = programs to learn a trade or occupation directly from someone practicing that occupation

Page 21

trades = occupations, especially one requiring skilled labor; craft: e.g., the building trades

guilds =  an association of persons of the same trade or pursuits, formed to protect mutual interests and maintain standards

per capita = per head or per person

Page 22

mystical = spiritual

Fabian = relating to cautious and gradual change, after Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus

humanistic = focusing on humans and their values, capacities, and worth

Page 23

commerce = business

trajectory = path

Page 24

prestigious = respected and admired, important

domestic = of the home or home nation

legacy = something that is a result of events in the past

the raj = British rule over India, from raja, Sanskrit for king

receivership = a situation in which a company (or country) is controlled by the receiver because it has no money

Page 23

specialize = to spend most of your time studying one particular subject or doing one type of work

blitzkrieg = in war, sudden attacks by air and land

Page 26

barrister = word for lawyer in the UK and India

missionary = a person who has been sent to a place, usually a foreign country, to teach a religion to the people who live there

Page 28

aptitude = natural ability or talent

novel = new and original; not like anything seen before

Page 29

apprehensive = concerned

malaise = a general feeling of bad health or lack of energy in a person, group, or society

boom = a period of sudden economic growth

Great Depression = in the U.S, a period of decrease in wealth, industrial production, and employment from 1929 until the start of World War II

Vietnam = a long military conflict (1954–1975) between South Vietnam, supported by United States forces, and Communist North Vietnam. The war resulted in a North Vietnamese victory and unification of Vietnam under Communist rule

Watergate = a series of scandals involving the U.S. President Nixon

Page 30

decay = damage, or a state that becomes gradually worse; rot

lax = lacking care, attention, or control; weak

Page 31

imperialism = the attempt of one country to control another country, especially. by political and economic methods

hegemony = (especially of countries) the position of being the strongest and most powerful and therefore able to control others

populist = a person or a politician who is mainly interested in the problems and needs of ordinary people

CIA = U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

Page 34

unadulterated= not spoiled or made weaker by the addition of other things

bootlegged = made illegally or copied

samizdat = government-banned literature in the former Soviet Union 

Page 35

classic = having lasting significance or worth; enduring

expats = expatriates, someone who does not live in his or her own country

merit scholarships = scholarships based on demonstrated ability or achievement (rather than need)

Page 37

Western = relating to countries in the west part of the world, especially North America and countries in the west of Europe

Page 38

gusto = eager enjoyment experienced when doing something

Page 39

Henry Kissinger = German-born American diplomat who was national security adviser (1969–1975) and U.S. secretary of state (1973–1977) under Presidents Nixon and Ford

Chapter 2: A Brief History of Liberal Education

Page 41

Homeric = relating to Homer, Ancient Greek poet, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey

sustenance = the maintaining of someone or something in life or existence; sustaining

Page 42

orator = public speaker, especially one who is eloquent or skilled

dialectic = a way of discovering what is true by considering opposite theories

instrumental = important in causing something to happen

Page 43

rationale =  set of reasons for a course of action or a particular belief

mutually exclusive = unable to exist or be true if something else exists or is true

abstract = existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence

courtiers = people who attend a royal court as a companion or adviser

Page 44

logic = a formal, scientific method of examining or thinking about ideas

statesmen = skilled, experienced, and respected political leaders or figures

demoted = lowered in rank or position

Page 45

Dark Ages = the period in western Europe between the fall of the Roman Empire and the high Middle Ages, around AD 500–1100, during which Germanic tribes swept through Europe and North Africa, often attacking and destroying towns and settlements.

monasteries = buildings occupied by a community of monks living under religious vows

Cairo = city in Egypt

Baghdad = city in Iraq

Moorish Spain = Spain under the Muslims who invaded in the 8th century and established a civilization in Andalusia that lasted until the late 15th century

stagnation = lack of activity or growth

Page 46

theology = the study of religion and religious belief, or a set of beliefs about a particular religion

autonomy = freedom from external control or influence; independence

bastion = something that keeps or defends a belief or a way of life that is disappearing or threatened 

taboo = something that is avoided or forbidden for religious or social reasons

scrutiny = the careful and detailed examination of something

Page 47

heretical = holding beliefs that are opposed to the official belief of a church and that the church considers wrong

speculate = to form opinions about something without having the necessary information or facts; to make guesses

clergy = religious leaders

universal = existing everywhere or involving everyone

pervasive = present or noticeable in every part of a thing or place

arts and letters = arts and literature

eloquence = skill in speaking

Page 48

divinity = study of religion

benefactor = person who gives money or other help to a person or cause

endowed = gave an income or property to (a person or institution)

menial = (of work) needing little skill or education

secular = non-religious

sermon = a talk on a religious or moral subject, especially one given during a church service and based on a passage from the Bible

seminaries = colleges where people are trained to become religious leaders

imposing = noticeable because of large size, appearance, or importance

Page 49

full-fledged = completely developed

residential = with people in residence, or living there

lateral = from the side or sideways movement, from peer to peer rather than from a teacher

Page 50

predecessors = things or people who came before in time

colonial = relating to the 13 British colonies that became the original United States of America

divine = connected with or like God or a god

Page 51

antiquated = old or old-fashioned, like an antique

classical = relating to ancient Greek or Latin literature, art, or culture

resonate = to evoke a feeling of shared emotion or belief, to correspond closely

Page 52

rousing = waking someone or making someone more active or excited

compounded = something bad made worse

the Continent = the mainland of Europe

Page 53

tumultuous = excited, confused, or disorderly

calling = a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation

Page 54

reform = action to improve or correct what is wrong or defective in something

spontaneous = excited, confused, or disorderly

electives = courses that are optional

Page 55

mediator = a person who tries to end a disagreement by helping the two sides to talk about and agree on a solution

imbue = filled with a quality or feeling

authenticity = the quality of being real or true

radical = affecting the fundamental nature of something

compulsory = required by law or a rule

imbue = filled with a quality or feeling

Page 56

distinctive = clearly different from others

hierarchy =  a system in which people or things are put at various levels or ranks

whim = sudden desire or idea

in sync with = working well together; in agreement

dominate = to have control over a place or a person

losing its character = losing its distinctive nature

Page 57

canon = the list of works considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality

superseded = replaced by something newer, more effective

Page 58

receded = moved back

merits = features that deserve praise

invalidate = to make something not true, or to make something unacceptable

Page 59

Socratic tradition of inquiry = a teaching technique in which a teacher does not give information directly but instead asks a series of questions, with the result that the student comes either to the desired knowledge by answering the questions or to a deeper awareness of the limits of knowledge

moral authority = the people or texts that have the power to say what is right or wrong

unanimous = all in agreement

chronological = in the order the events happened in time

Page 60

advocates = people who publicly support or recommend a particular cause or policy

proportionally = when considering an amount of something as a part of a whole

commiserate = to feel or express sympathy for someone’s suffering or unhappiness

collective = of or shared by every member of a group of people

Page 61

inherent = existing as a natural and permanent quality of something or someone

cultural literacy = the idea that individuals with an awareness of the history, language, and customs that make up  a dominant culture will be better able to communicate with one another

cornucopia = an abundant supply of good things of a specified kind

allure = appeal or attraction

enraptured = filled with great pleasure or extremely pleased by something

Page 63

conviction = firmly held beliefs or opinions

bureaucratic = overly concerned with procedure at the expense of efficiency or common sense

imperatives = motivation or priorities

latter = later one in the list, opposite of former which is the first in the list

trumped = beat (someone or something) by saying or doing something better

tenure = the right to keep a job permanently in the academic system

arcane = complicated or rare and therefore understood or known by only a few people

subversive = trying to undo an established order, especially to undermine or overthrow an established government

rigor = with high standards demanding hard work

Page 64

incentives = things that encourage a person to do something

Page 65

pious = very religious

devoid of = lacking

relegated = moved to an inferior or obscure place, rank, category, or condition

laypeople = non-experts

polarization = the fact of people or opinions being divided into two opposing groups

Page 66

gusto = enthusiasm, with energy

Page 67

pervades = spreads through all parts of something

trustee = member of a board in charge of directing the funds and policy of an institution

beachhead = an area of land near the sea or a river that an attacking army has taken control of and from where it can move forward into enemy country

Page 68

innovative = new and different

silo = a large structure, usually cylindrical, used for storing grain for farm animals, so a very separated structure

synergy = the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the power achieved by each working separately

Page 69

ethics = the study of what is morally right and wrong, or a set of beliefs about what is morally right and wrong

Page 70

cliché = an idea or expression that has been used too often and is often considered a sign of bad writing or old-fashioned thinking

mandate = authority to act in a particular way given to a government or a person, esp. as a result of a vote or ruling

Chapter 3: Learning to Think

Page 72

extol = to praise highly

Page 73

regurgitate= vomit, or to repeat information without understanding it

Page 73

aprocryphal = probably not true although it is often told and believed by some people to have happened

Page 74

jargon = words and phrases used by particular groups of people, especially in their work, that are not generally understood

Page 75

articulate (adjective) = expressing or able to express things easily and clearly

Page 76

analyze = to examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations

Page 77

parry = to defend yourself from a weapon or an attack by pushing the weapon away or by putting something between your body and the weapon, or to manage cleverly to avoid dealing with a difficult question or some criticism

Page 78

hypothesis = an idea or explanation for something that is based on known facts but has not yet been proven

Page 81

aesthetic = relating to the enjoyment or study of beauty

lucrative = profitable

Page 82

ingenuity = the skill of thinking, performing, or using things in new ways, especially to solve problems

Page 83

anonymity = a situation in which a person is not known by or spoken of by name

eclipse = to become more important and noticeable than something, like when one celestial body moves in front of another

Page 84

amenable = willing to accept or be influenced by a suggestion

vexing = annoying, worrying, or causing problems, challenging

automate = to make something operate automatically by using machines or computers

tacitly = understood without being expressed directly

Page 85

outsource = to get work done by making a contract with another company to do it, often in another country, rather than in your own company or doing it yourself

venture capitalist = a person or financial organization that invests in new businesses, especially ones that involve risk

Page 86

trajectory = the curved path an object follows after it is thrown or shot into the air, or of an object that is traveling through space

revenues = income, money earned

sector = an area, like an area of the economy

Page 88

novel (adjective) = new, innovative

quixotic = having ideas that are admirable but not practical

Page 90

speculation = the activity of guessing possible answers to a question without having enough information to be certain

anecdotal evidence = based on reports or things someone saw rather than on proven facts

Page 91

proficiency = skill or ability, competence

Page 93

entrepreneur = a person who attempts to make a profit by starting a company or by operating alone in the business world, especially when it involves taking risks

meritocracy = a social system, society, or organization in which people have power because of their abilities, not because of their money or social position

Page 96

GDP = gross domestic product: the total value of a country's annual output of goods and services

dynamism = the quality of having a lot of ideas and enthusiasm; energetic and forceful

disparity = a lack of equality and similarity, especially in a way that is not fair

Page 97

delusion = something a person believes and wants to be true, when it is actually not true

bravado = a show of bravery or defiance, often in order to make a false impression or mislead someone

writ large = if one thing is another thing writ large, it is similar to it but larger or more obvious

correlation = a connection between two or more things

labor force = all the people in a particular country who are of the right age to work

Page 98

behemoth = something that is extremely large and often extremely powerful

Page 99

ameliorate = improve, fix

diffusion = the process of spreading into a surrounding substance

emulate = to copy someone’s behavior or try to be like someone else because you admire or respect that person

Page 101

conducive = providing the right conditions for something to happen or exist

Page 102

grade inflation =  the assigning of grades higher than previously assigned for the same levels of achievement

succinct = (of writing or speech) clear and short; expressing what needs to be said without unnecessary words

empirical = based on what is experienced or seen rather than on theory

Page 103

cerebral = relating to the brain

Page 104

credibility = the fact that someone can be believed or trusted

trading commodities = speculating on the future direction of the price of certain physical goods

summa cum laude = "with the highest praise" or with high honors

implementation = the act of putting a plan into action or of starting to use something

Page 105

mandarins = high-ranking officials or bureaucrats

laissez-faire = in French, "to allow to do"; loose, not controlled 

Chapter 4: The Natural Aristocracy

Page 106

statesman = a politician or government official who is respected and experienced

statecraft = the skill of governing a country

civically engaged = active in the local community

Page 107

Yuppie= a young, successful educated person who lives in a city; short for Young Urban Professional

Page 108

frugal = careful in spending money

Page 109

seminar = a meeting of a small group of people with a teacher or expert for training, discussion, or study on a particular subject

Page 110

degenerate = to become worse

tyranny = unlimited authority or use of power, or a government which exercises such power without any control or limits

illuminate = to put light in or on something

bulwark = something serving as a defense, like a wall or embankment

erudite = having or showing a lot of knowledge

Page 112

nonsectarian = not related to a religious sect or group

chapel = a small church or an enclosed place in a large church for worship

republic = a country that is governed by elected representatives and an elected leader

hereditary = related to the natural process by which parents pass on to their children through their genes the characteristics that make them related

aristocracy = a class of people of high social rank, or a government ruled by or consisting of people of a high social class

elites = those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful

Page 113

libertarian = someone who believes that people should have complete freedom of thought and action

Page 115

endowment = money or property donated to an institution, individual, or group as a source of income

need-blind financial aid = a policy of promising enough financial aid to attend the school for any student who is admitted, regardless of ability to pay

Page 116

arbitrary = based on a desire or idea or chance rather than reason; random

legacy = an applicant to an educational institution who is the child of an alumna or alumnus

deviation = a difference from what is usual or expected

Page 117

recruited = actively persuaded to become a new member of an organization

Page 118

nebulous = cloudy or unclear (118)

intangible = not able to be seen or physically felt

subjective = influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts

Page 119

compensate = to take the place of something useful or needed with something else of similar value

irrelevant = not related to what is being discussed or considered

Page 120

onerous = causing great difficulty or trouble, a burden

jeopardize = to risk or put something in danger

marketable = easily sold

plausible = believable

Page 121

productivity = the rate at which a person, company, or country does useful work

Page 122

price insensitive = used to describe a product or service for which sales remain the same or continue to increase even if the price goes up or down by a large amount

obscure (verb) = to hide or cover up

inflation = a continuing rise in prices caused by an increase in the money supply and demand for goods

Page 125

panel = a small group of people chosen to publicly discuss their opinions

Page 126

déjà vu = the strange feeling that in some way you have already experienced what is happening now

Page 130

conveyor belt = a continuous moving strip or surface that is used for transporting objects from one place to another, used in factories

remedial = (of an activity) intended to correct or improve something, esp. skills

customized = made or changed according to the buyer's or user's needs

Page 131

scale = size (131)

inversely correlated = when one side goes up, the other goes down, an opposite relationship

Page 132

UNESCO = United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization: a department of the United Nations that aims to encourage peace between countries through education, science, and culture

Page 133

cohort = a group of people who share a characteristic, usually age

Chapter 5: Knowledge and Power

Page 135

Prometheus and Zeus = gods in Greek mythology

Mount Olympus = the home of the gods in Greek mythology

Page 136

Genesis = In the Bible, the first book of the Old Testament, which tells the story of Adam and Eve

Page 137

millennia = plural of millennium, a thousand years

bucolic = relating to the countryside, peaceful

Page 140

pithily = in a pithy way, using few words

posited = suggested, proposed

Page 142

stroke = a sudden change in the blood supply to a part of the brain, which can result in a loss of some mental or physical abilities, or death

antidote = a chemical, esp. a drug, that acts against the bad effects of a poison to limit the harm it can do

Page 143

testament = proof of something

Page 144

the Enlightenment = the period in the 18th century in Europe when particular thinkers began to emphasize the importance of science and reason rather than religion and tradition

humanitarian = involved in or connected with improving people’s lives and reducing suffering

balk = to be unwilling to do something or let something happen

serfdom = the state of being a member of a low social class of farm workers who cannot leave the land where they work and who are ruled by the owner of the land

perverse = contrary to what is right or good or expected

Page 145

monarchs = kings or queens

rapacious = having or showing a strong wish to take things for yourself, usually using unfair methods or force

dictatorship = the rule of a country by someone who rules with complete power, has complete control over the armed forces, and destroys any political opposition

decolonization = the release of one country or territory from political control by another country

Page 146

at the helm = in control of; (the helm is the handle or wheel that controls the direction in which a ship or boat travels)

Page 147

fascism = a political system based on a very powerful leader, state control of social and economic life, and extreme pride in country and race, with no expression of political disagreement allowed

communism = an economic system based on public ownership of property and control of the methods of production, and in which no person profits from the work of others

fundamentalism = the belief that the traditional principles of a religion or set of beliefs should be maintained

ideology = a theory or set of beliefs, esp. one on which a political system, party, or organization is based

nationalism = devotion, especially excessive devotion, to the interests or culture of a particular nation-state

coercion = forcefully persuading someone to do something that he or she may not want to do

Page 148

submission = the act of accepting the power or authority of someone else

arrogance = showing pride in an unpleasant way and behaving as if you are better or more important than other people

Chapter 6: In Defense of Today's Youth

Page 151

automaton = a machine that operates on its own without the need for human control, or a person who acts like a machine, without thinking or feeling

millennials = the generation of young people who were born around the time of the millennium, that is, around the year 2000

crew = a sport where teams of rowers race teams in other boats

Page 152

introspective = examining and considering your own ideas, thoughts, and feelings, instead of talking to other people about them

industrious = regularly working very hard

alienation = the feeling that you have no connection with the people around you

beneficent = characterized by or performing acts of kindness or charity

cynics = people whose outlook is habitually negative and who don't believe people have good motives

Page 153

bourgeois = belonging to or typical of the middle class (= the social group between the rich and the poor), esp. in supporting established customs and values or in having a strong interest in money and possessions

callow = behaving in a way that shows little experience, confidence, or judgment

jeremiad = writing or speech expressing a bitter lament or a righteous prophecy of doom

Puritans = an English religious group in the 16th and 17th centuries who wanted to make church ceremonies simpler and emphasized moral behavior that forbid many pleasures

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) = U.S. writer and naturalist

Page 154

plaintive = having a sad quality

reactionary = characterized by reaction, especially opposition to progress

pillory = to severely criticize someone, especially in a public way

tantric = based on ancient Hindu or Buddhist texts

Hegel = German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

Page 156

bigoted = having strong, unreasonable ideas, esp. about race or religion, and who thinks anyone who does not have the same beliefs is wrong

Page 157

caricature (verb) = to show or describe a person in a ridiculous way

Page 158

aspiration = a strong hope or wish for achievement or success

incremental = in a series of amounts

Page 158

narcissism = too much interest in and admiration for your own physical appearance and/or your own abilities

entitlement = feeling that you have a right to the good things in life without necessarily having to work for them

slothfulness = being like a sloth, slow and lazy

Page 160

self-abnegation = to not allow yourself to have something, especially something you like or want; self-denial

Page 161

in flux = in a state of change

Page 162

disenchanted = no longer believing in the value of something, esp. after having learned of the faults that it has

dysfunctional = not behaving or working normally

NGO = nongovernmental organization

nostalgia = a feeling of pleasure and sometimes slight sadness at the same time as you think about things that happened in the past

Page 163

capitalism = an economic system based on private ownership of property and business, with the goal of making the greatest possible profits for the owners

communism = an economic system based on public ownership of property and control of the methods of production, and in which no person profits from the work of others

proxy war = war where the groups or countries at war are representing or being backed by other groups or countries

Page 164

divestment = the act of selling off a business or businesses, or of no longer investing money in something

jihadist = a Muslim who is fighting for Islam, especially a radical (= someone with extreme views) who believes in using violence to achieve religious and political aims

partisanship = different political groups involving loyal support of their side and not working together

Page 165

to the barricades = to protest or go to war for something (a barricade is a large object or objects that are used to stop people from going where they want to go)

icon = a famous person or thing that represents something of importance

Page 166

wonk = one who studies an issue or topic thoroughly

Page 168

apartheid = a political system in South Africa that legally separated people of different races

Page 169

purple prose = overly elaborate writing or speech


"For it is from knowledge that oratory must derive its beauty and fullness"

--philosopher-statesman Cicero, circa 55 AD

This is why we do research in English Comp. and Effective Speaking!


Guide author:  Charlotte Gerstein, Reference & Instruction Librarian, Castleton University