SAT Vocabulary Word List – the 100 most important words you must know

What is the SAT?

The SAT is an annual standardized test for admission to American universities and colleges. The test is intended to provide comparability in the study ability of prospective students, as the American school system is inconsistent. The test is carried out by the non-profit organization College Board.

The abbreviation stands for 

SAT = Scholastic Assessment Test. 


The test has been taken for over 100 years and is almost always mandatory for American students. Each of the three sections of the general SAT is scored from 200 to 800. The maximum score is the sum of the individual scores.


SAT Sections

The test lasts a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes and is divided into 3 sections:


  • Mathematics : For the most part, there are multiple choice
    questions as well as some tasks without given answer options.


  • Critical reading : This section is based on text passages and focuses on the test taker’s ability to read through and interpret them to answer multiple-choice questions. Some of the questions relate to a word’s meaning in the context of the passages, so having a strong vocabulary (in addition to good reading comprehension skills) will help you ace this section of the test.


  • Writing : The task here is to write an essay and correct sentences in the context of the whole paragraph or text. The passages to be read are generally shorter than in the Reading section.


   In addition to the main areas, there are other subject-specific test areas, the so-called SAT Subject tests (duration 60min)

Preparation through SAT Wordlists

To increase the score of your test, it is recommended to learn essential vocabulary words and their definitions several months in advance by using word lists. Certain words are likely to appear repeatedly on the SAT. If you expand your vocabulary with the most important SAT words, you will understand the questions better and be able to answer more eloquently. In addition, your newly acquired vocabulary will help you in your future college and work life. 

What are the 100 most common SAT words?

Here is a list of the most common SAT words that are often tested on the SAT vocabulary exam.


Abandongive up completely“We had to abandon the car.”
Abatebecome less intense or widespread“Gains in oil prices are unlikely to abate within the next few months.”
Abetencourage or assist“In these circumstances, physicians can play a crucial role if they choose to abet draft evasion.”
Accedeaccent or agree to a demand"He graciously acceded to our request."
Beratescold or criticize"As he left the meeting, he was berated by angry demonstrators."
Bovineof or relating to cattle“a bovine virus”
Braggarta person who boasts about achievements"They carried themselves offhandedly, like connoisseurs and braggarts."
Burnishpolish by rubbing"The company is currently trying to burnish its socially responsible image."
Cachea collection of similar items stored in a secret place"a cache of weapons"
Cacophonyharsh discordant mixture of sounds"What a cacophony!"
Catalyst substance the increases the rate of chemical reaction"The high suicide rate acted as a catalyst for change in the prison system."
Censoriousseverely critical of others"his censorious attitude to those who do not share his opinions"
Dearthscarcity or lack of something"a dearth of new homes in the region"
Demagoguea political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires rather than reason“Twenty-six years ago it was my privilege to fight the greatest and most able demagogue this country has yet produced.”
Diluvialof or relating to a flood"He made no mention of fossils, but inspired other diluvial theories that did."
Dispassionatenot influenced by strong emotion“He spoke in the flat, dispassionate tone of a lecturer.”
Effluviaan unpleasant or harmful odor“The ravioli without their pustular effluvia are rather nice.”
Emulatematch or surpass“Sons are traditionally expected to emulate their fathers.”
Epochalextremely significant“It took on an epochal importance, which is worthy of more detailed investigation.”
Expoundexplain or present“Schmidt continued to expound his views on economics and politics.”
Facileappearing comprehensive by ignoring the complexities of the situation“This subject is admittedly too complex for facile summarization.”
Fictivecreated by imagination“She has developed two fictive female characters”
Flippantnot showing serious attitude"Don't be flippant! This is serious!"
Gauchelacking grace“We're all a bit gauche when we're young.”
Gregariousoutgoing or social“She is such a gregarious and outgoing person.”
Grottosmall cave or cave-like structure"Water trickles through an underground grotto."
Hedonistperson who believes the pursuit of pleasure is the most important aspect of life"He gets bored with his hedonist lifestyle, but can't escape from it either."
Hereticalpracticing religious heresy"The Church regards spirit mediums and people claiming to speak to the dead as heretical."
Hubrisexcessive pride"Commissioning one seems an act of hubris."
Hypocritea person who says one thing and does another"The magazine wrongly suggested he was a liar and a hypocrite."
Ignoblenot honorable in character"A monster consists of brutal, ignoble and vile thought forces."
Imbibedrink alcohol“They were used to imbibing enormous quantities of alcohol.”
Imperiousassuming power without justification"Her attitude is imperious at times."
Importunatepersistant"His secretary shielded him from importunate visitors."
Jettisonthrow or drop for an airplane or ship"The crew jettisoned excess fuel and made an emergency landing."
Jocularhumorous or playful"He was in a less jocular mood than usual."
Juntamilitary group that rules after taking by force"The one good result was that the military junta could not hope to stay in power much longer."
Kismetdestiny"Adan and I were meant for each other. It was kismet."
Lexiconvocabulary of a person"I suspect that there is a new phrase entering the lexicon as well."
Licentiousimmoral“…licentious dancing on the dance floor..”
Limberflexible"I need to limber my fingers before playing the piano."
Loquacioustalkative"She was, after all, an American woman summarizing the views of the loquacious French, mostly men."
Malapropismmistaken use of a word in place of a similar sounding word"He has a tendency to use malapropisms and misinterpret figures of speech."
Malfeasancewrongdoing"The criminal charges are obstruction of justice and malfeasance in office."
Mawkishsentimental in a sickening way"The stories are so silly and sentimental and mawkish anyway."
Misnomerwrong or inaccurate name in designation"Herbal 'tea' is something of a misnomer because these drinks contain no tea at all."
Modicumsmall or minimal portion"I'd like to think I've had a modicum of success."
Motetiny piece of a substance"Bolls at the middle and top parts of the plant had lower mote frequencies than bolls at the bottom of the plant."
Necromancypractice of communicating with the dead“Practices such as these, varying from the mundane to the grotesque, were commonly associated with necromancy.”
Nihilismrejection of religion"Why should a great community like a university be afraid of nihilism?"
Nomenclaturethe choosing of names for things"…the internationally agreed rules of chemical nomenclature."
Novelfictitious prose narrative“...historical novels set in the time of the Pharaohs.”
Obfuscateto confuse"They are obfuscating the issue, as only insurance companies can."
Olfactoryof or relating to the sense of smell“This olfactory sense develops in the womb.”
Opprobriouscompressing scorn"We denied the opprobrious charges published against us."
Ostracizeexclude from a society or group"His colleagues ostracized him after he criticized the company in public."
Palatialresembling a palace"They lived in a palatial apartment."
Pandemicdisease prevalent over an entire country or multiple countries"In some parts of the world malaria is still pandemic."
Paramountmore important than anything else"There are many priorities, but reducing the budget deficit is of paramount importance."
Patricianan aristocrat"He nodded firmly, acknowledging the presence of a fellow patrician."
Polyglotknowing or using several languages“He was reading a polyglot bible, with the text in English, Latin and Greek.”
Prestidigitationmagic tricks performed for entertainment“Blaine's feats of prestidigitation mesmerize audiences.”
Provincialof or concerning a province or country"Jeremy, was the house manager for a provincial theatre for ten years."
Rancorbitterness or resentfulness“They cheated me, but I feel no rancor against them.”
Rarefyto make or become more dense or solid“…the rarefied mountain air”
recapitulatesummarize and state again the main points“Let's just recapitulate the essential points.”
Refuteprove to be wrong or false“It was the kind of rumour that it is impossible to refute.”
Reposea state of rest"He had a still, almost blank face in repose."
Resilientable to withstand“They had to demonstrate resilience.”
Revilecriticize in an abusive manner“He was just as feared and reviled as his tyrannical parents.”
Rifeof common occurrence“Dysentery and malaria are rife in the refugee camps.”
Sanctimoniousmaking a show of being morally superior“To people outside, some of us may appear to be sanctimonious. ”
Scrupulousdiligent attention to details“The nurse told him to be scrupulous about keeping the wound clean.”
Seditionconduct or speech inciting people to rebel"He himself was tried for sedition and sentenced to ten years in jail."
Sinecureposition requiring little or no work"I never thought of my job as a sinecure."
Stintsupply inadequate amount of something“He has just finished a stint of compulsory military service.”
Sybariteself indulgent person"Morocco is a haven for backpackers and sybarites alike."
Tawdryshowy but cheap“...tawdry jewellery.”
Tenaciouskeep a firm hold on something"The baby took my finger in its tenacious little fist."
Tersesparing in use of words""No!" was the terse reply."
Toutattempt to sell something by aggressively pestering"The minister has been touting these ideas for some time."
Trouncedefeat heavily in a contest“He trounced his rivals in the election.”
Tutelageauthority over someone or something“Under the tutelage of Professor Roberts, the 900 delegates assessed and discussed the social market economy.”
Unconscionablenot right or reasonable“To make people feel shame or guilt for being ill is unconscionable.”
Untowardunexpected"Unless anything untoward happens we should arrive just before midday."
Usurylending money at unlawful rates"The payday loans, exempt from usury laws, carry an annual interest rate of 390%. "
Vehementlyshowing strong feeling"The president has vehemently denied having an extra-marital affair."
Veritableusing as an intensifier“My garden had become a veritable jungle by the time I came back from holiday.”
Vilifywrite or speak in an abusively disparaging way"He was vilified by the press as a monster."
Vociferousvehement"A vociferous opponent of gay rights, he is well-known for his right-wing views."
Wanpale with appearance of illness"All she could manage was a thin, wan smile."
Wieldhold and use typically a weapon or tool“..a lone assailant wielding a kitchen knife.”
Winsomeattractive appearance or character“She gave him her best winsome smile.”
Wryusing dry or mocking humor“A wry sense of humor.”
Xenophobefear or dislike for people of different countries"He has been denounced as a xenophobe and an extreme nationalist."
Yeomana man holding and cultivating a field“As a result, the number of yeomen was halved.”
YenJapanese monetary unit“She earns 400,000 yen a month as an English teacher in Tokyo.”
Yowlloud waining cry"On the hills, the foxes yowled and yelped."
Zenithpeak"The summer sun was at its zenith in a cloudless sky."
Zephyrsoft gentle breeze"So far it has only been a gentle zephyr."

How Important Are SAT Vocab Words?

Even though isolated vocabulary items are no longer asked since 2016, the SAT word lists are still important to achieve good results on the test. Vocabulary is still asked in the reading and writing sections, but vocabulary is now asked in the context of text passages. 


  • SAT Reading Section 

The reading sections include questionnaires that may contain unknown words, as well as the corresponding answers. The texts to be read are also written by several authors. They can come from literature but also from natural, social or world history. Thus, there will be some words that you will not know right away. Again, it is very helpful to prepare yourself with the word lists. 


  • SAT Writing Section

The writing section is all about your editing and proofreading skills. Unlike the reading section, all writing passages are non-fiction in the form of narratives, arguments, and explanatory texts.

The main task in the writing section is to proofread words and sentences in these passages. The following skills will be asked: Reasoning, Words in context, Expression of ideas, Standard English conventions.


Thus, the SAT Wordlists are also of great importance here. 







How do I improve my SAT vocabulary?

Besides the important SAT word lists, other preparations for the test are useful:


  1. read a lot - books, newspaper, magazines, everything is helpful and pay special attention to unknown words
  2. practice with flashcards - use little cards and write down new words to memorize them better
  3. use general dictionaries - in addition to word lists because it is better to memorize different definitions of words
  4. practice reading passages - use official SAT practice tests. College Board offers mock SAT tests with many realistic reading passages that mimic the style and form of the passages.