Working Vocab:
Click here for a 1,000 word list that I designed to act as a reference guide to help me
augment my working vocabulary.  Many of the words that I selected are words that are
commonly used on the SAT and GRE verbal tests.  Because the testing bureaus that
create these tests strive to choose words that are pervasive in contemporary and
academic literature, these words should prove valuable for a person of any
Essay Vocab:

Abiotic: adj.
Nonliving. The abiotic factors of the environment include light, temperature, and
atmospheric gases.

Accurate: adj.
Conforming with fact, containing no errors.  Capable of providing a correct

Amino Acid: noun
An organic compound that has the ability to link with other amino acids to form proteins.
 They can also function as chemical messengers in the body and as intermediates in

Antiquated: adj
Old-fashioned or unsuitable for modern society.

A priori: adj.
Characterizing the kind of reasoning which infers effects from the assumptions made or
the causes that are previously known. The reverse of a posteriori.

Association Cortex: noun
Cortical areas of the brain that are not motor or sensory but are thought to be involved
in memory and associations.

Atrophy: noun
The diminishment or wasting in size of an organ or tissue due to injury, disease or

Autotroph: noun
An organism capable of synthesizing its own food from inorganic substances, using
either light or chemical energy. Green plants, algae, and certain bacteria are

Axiom: noun
A self-evident or universally recognized truth; a maxim, an established rule, principle, or

Behavior: noun
The actions or reactions of a person or animal in response to external or internal stimuli.

Big Bang Theory: noun
A cosmological theory that postulates that a cosmic explosion marked the origin of the

Biocentrism: noun
The belief that denies that the world and nature exist to support human life.

Brownian Movement: noun
The random movement of microscopic particles suspended in a liquid or gas, caused by
collisions with molecules of the surrounding medium. Responsible for the collisions that
create the dispersal of smoke.

Causality: noun
The relationship between or principle of cause and effect

Chemoautotroph: noun
An organism, such as a bacterium or protozoan, that obtains its nourishment through
inorganic chemical compounds.

Compound: noun
A substance that is macroscopically homogeneous and that consists of atoms or ions of
two or more different elements in specific proportions.  A compound cannot be
separated by physical means and usually has properties unlike those of its constituent

Conservation:  noun
Preservation from loss. The maintenance of a physical quantity, such as mass or
energy, throughout a physical or chemical change.

Corroborate: verb
To support or strengthen with other evidence.  To confirm with new facts.

De jure / de facto: Latin phrase
According to law / according to fact.

Dissonant: adj.
Inharmonious or discordant.  Disagreeing or producing dissonance.

Electromagnetic Radiation: noun
Another term for light. Light waves are fluctuations of electric and magnetic fields in

Electronic: adj.
Based on, operated by, or otherwise involving the controlled conduction of electrons, or
other charge carriers.

Endosymbiosis: noun
Symbiosis in which a symbiotic organism lives within the body of its partner. Also the
widely held theory that eukaryotic organelles were originally acquired by endosymbiosis.

Epidemiology: noun
A branch of medicine that deals with the origins, prevalence and control of disease
within a population.

Epigenesis: noun
The correct theory that an individual organism develops out of a differentiating egg,
rather than by the enlargement of a preformed entity.

Epistemology: noun
The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature and origins of knowledge, its
premises, presuppositions and external validity.

Etiology: noun
The study of causes or origins.  A branch of medicine that focuses on the origins of

Eukaryote: noun
An organism that is comprised of one or more cells with DNA that is organized into
chromosomes and with visible, membrane bound nuclei and organelles.

Evolution: noun
Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations. The
development of species
resulting from the way natural selection acts on the genetic variation among individuals.

Exponential Growth: noun
Growth that is characterized by ever-increasing, non-linear increment.

Gaia Theory: noun
The Gaia theory is a model of the biosphere (the planet earth) that is named after the
Greek goddess Gaia.  This theory explains how individual life forms help to foster and
maintain environmental conditions that benefit the entire planet.  In 1969 James
Lovelock introduced this theory which shows us that in many ways living matter confined
to a planet will function like a single organism.

Gamma Ray: noun
Highly penetrating light waves that are emitted by radioactive substances.

Genotype: noun
The genetic constitution of an individual organism or group of organisms.

Geodesic: noun
The shortest path between two separate points on any mathematically defined surface.  
When the path between two points is not a straight line, it is a geodesic.

Gondwanaland: noun
The hypothetical protocontinent of the Southern Hemisphere that, according to the
theory of plate tectonics, broke up into India, Australia, Antarctica, Africa, and South

Heliocentric: adj.
Relating to the correct belief that the planets orbit around the sun.  The antithesis of
heliocentric is geocentric-which relates to the belief that the stars and planets orbit
around the earth.

Heterochrony: noun
A deviation from the regular maturational sequence.  Irregularity in time relationships
between different biological processes.

Heterotroph: noun
An organism that cannot synthesize its own food and is dependent on complex organic
substances for nutrition.

Heuristic: noun
A formula or series of steps that is used as a guide to solve a problem.  A time saving
algorithm or short cut- often speculative.

Homology: noun
A similarity between two things that is attributable to common origin.

Hypertrophy: verb or noun
The enlargement of an organ or tissue without an increase in the number of constituent
cells.  Antonym of atrophy.

Infrared Light: noun
Light waves that correspond to radiated heat.

Inhibition: noun
Conscious or unconscious restraint of a behavioral process, a desire, or an impulse.  
Something that restrains or suppresses.

Instinct: noun
An inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response
to specific environmental stimuli: the spawning instinct in salmon; altruistic instincts in
social animals.

Kinetic Energy: noun
The energy that an object has due to its motion.  A value equal to one half the mass of
an object multiplied by the square of its speed.

Melanin: noun
The pigment found in skin that is responsible for tanning and dark skin color.  Any of a
group of dark pigments naturally occurring in feathers, fur, hair, or skin.

Melatonin: noun
A hormone produced by the pineal gland that stimulates color change in the epidermis
of amphibians and reptiles and plays a role in sleep, aging, and reproduction in

Microwaves: noun
Light waves that can be used to excite, and heat up water molecules.

Mnemonics: noun (used with a singular verb)
A system developed to improve the memory. A device such as a formula, an analogy   
or a rhyme intended to aid retrieval.

Modus Operandi: Latin phrase
Method of operation.

Mole or mol: noun
A number that is equal to 6.0225 × 1023, or Avogadro's number.  The amount of a
substance that contains as many atoms, molecules, ions, or other elementary units as
the number of atoms in 0.012 kilogram of carbon 12.   Also called a gram molecule.

Morphology: noun
The physical characteristics of an organism or its parts.  Dealing with form and structure
without consideration of function.

Multicellular: adj.
Describes an organism that has more than one cell, such as animals and plants.

Neanderthal: noun
An extinct human species (Homo neanderthalensis) or subspecies (Homo sapiens
neanderthalensis) living during the late Pleistocene Epoch throughout most of Europe
and parts of Asia and northern Africa and associated with Middle Paleolithic tools.

Neoteny: noun
The retention of juvenile qualities by the adult form of an organism.  

Neurology: noun
The medical science that focuses on the nervous system.

Neuron: noun, also neurone UK
A nerve cell that carries information between the brain and other parts of the body.

Nolo Contendere: Latin phrase
No contest.

Noxious: adj.
Harmful to living things; injurious to health.

Objectivity: noun
A judgment or decision based on observable phenomena and unbiased by emotion or
personal preferences.

Ontogeny: noun
The course of development for a specific organism including embryological, fetal and
postnatal maturation.

Ontology: noun
The branch of metaphysics that is concerned with existence or the nature of being.

Optic Nerve: noun
A cranial nerve that arise from the retina and carries visual information to the thalamus
and other parts of the brain.

Order: noun
Biology. A taxonomic category of organisms ranking above a family and below a class.

Pangea: noun
A hypothetical supercontinent that included all the landmasses of the earth.  Before
the Triassic Period Pangaea broke up into Laurasia and Gondwanaland.

Paradigm: noun
Something that serves as a model or pattern.  A set of beliefs, value or practices that
constitutes a way of thought.  A systematic conceptualization in an intellectual discipline.

Phenomenology: noun   
A philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that all of reality consists of
both objects and events only as they are perceived by human consciousness.

Phenotype: noun
The visibly evident properties of an organism that are caused by interaction between
the environment and the genotype.

Photoautotroph: noun
An organism that is capable of synthesizing its own food from inorganic substances
using light as a source of energy. Both green plants and photosynthetic bacteria are

Phylogeny: noun
The history and evolutionary development of an organism, species or other taxonomic

Physical Anthropology: noun
The branch of anthropology that is concerned with physical variation and human
evolutionary biology.

Physiology: noun
Being in accord with or characteristic of the normal functioning of a living organism.

Pineal Gland: noun
The pineal gland is a tiny structure located at the base of the brain. Its principal
hormone is melatonin, a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan.

Pleiotropic: adj
Producing more than one evident effect.  Relating to a gene that has multiple
phenotypic expressions.

Polygenic: adj.
Relating to a trait or characteristic that is determined by the interaction of several genes
rather than just a single gene.

Polymerase Chain Reaction: noun
A technique that is used to rapidly synthesize a large number of a specific DNA
sequences.  This technique separates the DNA to be copied into its two complementary
strands and then uses DNA polymerase to synthesize double stranded DNA from each
single strand- the process is repeated until a sufficient amount of DNA has been

Potential Energy: noun
The energy that an object has due to its position relative to other objects, or due to its
condition or arrangement of parts.  A coiled spring, a copper battery and a weight
raised above the ground have potential energy.  

Precise: adj.
Clearly expressed or pinpointed. Strictly distinguished from other measurements, not

Premise: noun
A proposition that is used as the basis of an argument or inference.  Something

Prokaryote: noun
A member of the kingdom monera which is comprised of bacteria and cynobacteria.  
Prokaryotes are distinguished from eukaryotes in that they do not have membrane
bound nuclei, membrane bound organelles or DNA that is organized into chromosomes.

Pro Tempore:  latin phrase
For the time being.

Prima Facie:  adv.
At first sight; before closer inspection. True, authentic, or adequate at first sight;

Primordial: adj.
Being or happening first in sequence of time; original. Primary or fundamental.

Quantum Mechanics: noun
The theory of the structure and behavior of light, atoms, molecules and other forms of
energy on very small scales.

Radio Waves: noun
Light waves often used for the wireless transmission of information.

Raleigh Scattering: noun
The scattering of electromagnetic radiation by particles with dimensions much smaller
than the wavelength of the radiation, resulting in angular separation of colors and also
responsible for the reddish color of sunset and the blue of the sky.

Rehearsal: noun
A detailed enumeration or repetition.

RNA World Hypothesis: noun
This hypothesis states that RNA was, before the emergence of the first cells, the
dominant and probably the only form of life on the earth.  Characteristics of RNA
molecules make it seem likely that it came before DNA and that it was the first true entity
involved in genetic replication.

Spacetime: noun
The four dimensional continuum (three dimensions of space and one of time) in which
physical events take place.  A four dimensional coordinate system.

Speciation: noun
The evolutionary formation of new biological species, usually by the division of a
single species into two or more genetically distinct ones.

Spontaneous Generation: noun
In ancient Rome, the Middle Ages and up until the late nineteenth century, it was
generally accepted that some life forms arose spontaneously from non-living matter.

Subconscious: noun
The part of the mind below the level of conscious perception.

Symbiosis: noun
A close association between two or more different organisms of different species that
may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member.

Synapse: noun
The point at which electrical signals move from one nerve cell to another.

Triassic Period: noun
The period from 190 million to 230 million years ago. Marked by dinosaurs, marine
reptiles; volcanic activity.

Ultraviolet Light: noun
Light waves visible to some types of animals, responsible for sun burning.

Unconscious: noun
The part of the mind below the level of conscious perception.

Unicellular: adj.
Describes an organism that has only one cell, such as bacteria, archaea, protists, and
certain algae and fungi.

Visible Light: noun
Those light waves that can be perceived by the human eye.

X-Rays: noun
Light waves used for their penetrating power in radiography, radiology, radiotherapy,
and scientific research.

Organization for the Advancement of  
Interdisciplinary Learning