Civil Service Examination Coverage: English/Idiom and Vocabulary Words


An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase; but some phrases become figurative idioms while retaining the literal meaning of the phrase.

Here are some idioms that could be helpful in your review:

Spill the beans – reveal secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly

Barking up the wrong tree – be pursuing a mistaken or misguided line of thought or course of action

Achilles heel – a weakness or vulnerable point

Costs an arm and a leg- be extremely expensive

Born with a silver spoon in his/her mouth – Born wealthy, or fortunate, or both

Don’t Put All your Eggs in One Basket – one should not concentrate all efforts and resources in one area as one could lose everything

Butterflies on his stomach – anxious and have a nervous feeling in your stomach

Bury the hatchet – end a quarrel or conflict and become friendly

Don’t count your chicken before the eggs have hatched – not depend on something that has yet to happen

Jumped on the bandwagon – to join an activity that has become very popular or to change your opinion to one that has become very popular so that you can share in its success

Burning the midnight oil – working or studying late night

Blessing in disguise – something unexpectedly turned out good

It takes two to Tango – actions or communications need more than one person

Break a leg – do your best/ good luck

Effective tips to help you remember vocabulary:

  1. Read books and articles. Words can be retained easily when you see them in use, so by reading a lot of books and different kinds of articles, you may be able to discover some new words. Remember that when you are reading, try to recognize the meaning of a word using context clues. While in the progress of reading, refrain from checking your dictionary from time to time. You may miss the thought of the entire paragraph or context when you suddenly stop and check the meaning of a word in the dictionary during the reading process.
  2. Keep an organized vocabulary notebook. Make sure you note all the words which seem unfamiliar and try to define them using your dictionary. Also, be sure that you compile them in an organized manner.
  3. Use new words. Write a sentence or paragraph with the use of the word that you newly discovered. Be able to apply these words in speaking and writing. In this way, new words can be remembered easily.
  4. Associate words with picture. Our mind functions to visualize thoughts, figures, or pictures. One of the most effective ways in retaining a word in mind is to associate words with pictures or ideas. Connect words to sounds, taste, smell, and other different senses. With this, words will begin to stick in your mind along with the grammar.
    Here are some helpful vocabulary words for you to familiarize:
    Adamant – unshakable or insistent especially in maintaining a position or opinion
    Affable – friendly; easy to talk
    Affluence – abundance of property; wealth
    Alleviate – to lessen; relieve
    Ambivalent – uncertain; continual fluctuation
    Amicable – showing good will; peaceable
    Arid – extremely dry; with very little rain
    Benevolent – showing good will, desiring to help others
    Blurb –a short publicity notice (as on a book jacket)
    Boisterous – noisy; rough; energetic; rowdy
    Camaraderie – good-fellowship
    Clandestine – secret; marked by secrecy
    Conformist – a person who complies or follows traditions and usual practices
    Consort – companion; husband or wife
    Conundrum – riddle; puzzle
    Deleterious – harmful often in a subtle or unexpected way
    Disdain – contempt; scorn; disregard
    Divergent – moving or extending in different directions from a common point; differing from each other or from a standard
    Docile – easily taught; obedient; ready to learn
    Dogmatic- opinionated; self-opinionated
    Elucidate – clarify; explain; make clear
    Enthrall – to captivate or charm; to hold the attention of someone by exciting or interesting
    Ephemeral – short lived; lasting for short time
    Euphoria – ecstasy; a feeling of well-being or elation
    Evident – plain or clear to the sight or understanding
    Expedite – hasten; hurry; accelerate
    Fleeting – brief; passing swiftly
    Flout – defy; break; disobey
    Foster – advance; cultivate; encourage
    Fraud – a deception; trickery
    Frugal –economical; thrifty
    Futile – useless; completely ineffective
    Gawk – lout; clumsy stupid person
    Grotesque – weird; bizarre
    Haggle – bargain; negotiate
    Haphazard – aimless; arbitrary
    Hoard – stockpile; stock; store
    Inevitable – sure to happen, unavoidable, certain
    Intrepid – brave; courageous; fearless
    Intuitive – intuition; readily learned or understood
    Jeopardy – exposure to harm; danger of injury; loss; death
    Lucrative – money making; profitable
    Mundane – worldly; carnal; earthborn
    Obsolete – outdated; antiquated
    Ominous – being or exhibiting an omen; portentous
    Opulent – expensive; luxurious; deep-pocketed; affluent
    Ostentatious – pretentious; flashy; garish
    Plethoric – excessive
    Primp – tidy; to dress, adorn, or arrange in a careful manner
    Procrastinate – to delay something because it is boring
    Prudent – careful; exercising good judgment; cautious
    Reclusive – a person who lives alone and withdrawn from society
    Refurbish – to make neat or clean; to renovate; to restore
    Scrutinize – to examine in detail
    Scurrilous – scandalous, defamatory, libelous, offensive
    Shatter – to break something into pieces; demolish
    Sordid – vulgar; dirty; filthy; squalid
    Spontaneous – automatic; instinctive
    Subtle – delicate; elusive; obscure; perceptive
    Superficial – lacking in content, shallow
    Susceptible –gullible; impressionable; responsive
    Sycophant – a person who uses flattery to win favor
    Tactful – diplomatic; politic
    Tenacious – persistent, stubborn, obstinate, retentive
    Vindicate – to clear form accusation, blame or suspicion, free from allegation
    vivaciously – lively; active

Sources: Insignia Review Center – CHQ Institute Inc.

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