Can You Define These “D” Words Without Using a Dictionary?

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Many of the words in our vocabularies start with the letter D, but how well do you know their meaning? A 2013 study shows that the average adult's vocabulary range falls somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 words - does yours? Let's find out if you're a wordsmith in the making, or if you have a bit of catching up to do.

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1. "Deficiency..."

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  1. A person who is unflinching in battle
  2. To have a lack or shortage of
  3. To stimulate into action
  4. A socially awkward act
To have a deficiency or to be deficient in something means to have a lack or shortage of that thing. It is commonly used in reference to vitamins and minerals.
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2. "Diligent..."

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  1. Having grown thin from disease
  2. Something that is tasteless and showy
  3. The art of preparing good food
  4. Take great care or showing effort
Diligent is an adjective that describes the quality of showing care and great effort. Synonyms include hard-working and industrious.
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3. "Duplicate..."

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  1. The most powerful members of society
  2. An expressive style of music
  3. A copy of
  4. The study of a person’s history or ancestry
A duplicate is something that looks exactly like something else. It is usually an item that has been copied.
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4. "Distribute..."

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  1. To give out
  2. To cause to grow or sprout
  3. Genuine, not fake or counterfeit
  4. An article of clothing
The word distribute is a verb that means to give, share, or deal out. Similar words include dispense, issue, spread, and scatter.
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5. "Depict..."

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  1. An act that inspires horror
  2. Vigorous motions of the hands and body
  3. To represent through art
  4. To be pregnant with
To depict something means to represent it through art. It can be through a drawing, sculpture, painting, or some other kind of art.
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6. "Domestic..."

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  1. Something no longer fresh
  2. Existing in a particular country
  3. A beam used as support
  4. The distance around something
Domestic can mean so many things. The most commonly used are when referring to a tame animal kept as a pet, anything related to the running of a home, or something existing or happening in a specific country.
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7. "Defer..."

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  1. A slowly moving mass of ice
  2. To postpone or put off
  3. To gain information from
  4. Growth on a very large scale
Defer is just a way to say postpone, adjourn, delay, push back, or put off. This word is often used when someone who is accepted into a university pushes back the date they were supposed to start.
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8. "Dabble..."

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  1. The complete range or extent of something
  2. To immerse yourself into something
  3. To eat loudly
  4. To provide with clothing
The word dabble usually means to immerse yourself into something, like an activity. Another definition is to literally put one’s hands and feet in water.
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9. "Discreet...:

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  1. Old and twisted and covered in lines
  2. To be careful or mindful of
  3. A person who eats and drinks in excess
  4. Having sticky properties or being sticky
To be discreet about something means that one has to be careful with their words or actions or to make an effort to not be obtrusive; for example, “a discreet laugh.”
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10. "Daunting..."

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  1. Intimidating or difficult
  2. Something that is covered in blood
  3. To make a groove in
  4. To urge on
If something is daunting, that means that it is intimidating or seems difficult to deal with or approach.
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11. "Decay..."

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  1. Rotting or decomposing
  2. Puffed up with vanity
  3. To exercise authority over
  4. The evaluation of someone’s performance
Decay is a verb that describes the action of something rotting or decomposing. This decomposition can be of anything from food to a body.
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12. "Diverse..."

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  1. Words that are written, drawn or engraved
  2. Objects or people that are different
  3. To come to terms with something
  4. To make happy or satisfied
Diverse is a descriptive word. It is used when referring to a group of people or objects that are very different.
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13. "Drastic..."

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  1. A small, extravagant gift
  2. An extreme action
  3. Something unnecessary or unwarranted
  4. The completion of a program of study
A drastic action is one that is often thought of as being extreme. They also have effects that are far-reaching and are often long-lasting.
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14. "Dapper"

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  1. An act that is shockingly brutal
  2. A well put-together man
  3. To let eat in a meadow or pasture
  4. An action that lacks seriousness
Dapper is an adjective that is normally used when referring to a man who looks neat and put together. This man is often dressed formally when this word is used.
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15. "Distort..."

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  1. The splitting of a group into opposing factions
  2. Deficient in number
  3. To twist out of shape
  4. Marked by criticism
To distort something means to pull or twist it out of shape. It can also mean to give a false or fake account of someone or a situation.
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16. "Deadlock..."

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  1. Using tricks to deceive
  2. A descendant of royalty
  3. Innocent and/or free of deceit
  4. A situation where no progress is being made
A deadlock occurs when two or more opposing parties are in a situation where no progress can be made, usually because no one wants to compromise.
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17. "Diagnose..."

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  1. Harshly uninviting
  2. To identify the nature of a problem
  3. Marked by care or effort
  4. Showing fortitude or determination
To diagnose something means to identify the nature of a problem (or illness) using its symptoms. One could also use the words to recognize, discover, and determine.
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18. "Delicate..."

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  1. Fragile or easily damaged
  2. Relating to the taste of something
  3. To actively keep something separated
  4. Naïve or easily tricked
Something that is delicate is fragile and easily damaged. The word can also be used to describe something that has fine or intricate features or structures.
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19. "Dubious..."

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  1. Resembling a prophet
  2. To be doubtful or uncertain
  3. Treated as if holy
  4. Good luck in making unexpected discoveries
To be dubious means to be doubtful or uncertain of a person or situation. It can also be used to describe a person or situation that cannot be trusted or relied on.
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20. "Dysfunctional..."

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  1. Promoting good health
  2. Someone that is very wise and insightful
  3. Something that is not working as it should
  4. Comfort offered to a sad person
The word dysfunctional begins with the prefix ‘dys’ which means bad or difficult. Therefore, the word dysfunctional means something that isn’t operating properly or as it should.
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21. "Desert..."

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  1. Dry, barren land
  2. Punishable by law
  3. A situation where no progress is being made
  4. Someone with enduring energy
Desert is both a noun and a verb. The noun form is a place that is dry, barren, and usually covered with sand. The verb form is the action of leaving or abandoning a place, cause, or person.
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22. "Dichotomy..."

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  1. The contract between two things
  2. Something highly offensive
  3. A state of self-imposed isolation
  4. Someone who looks closely at things
Dichotomy describes the contrast or differences between two things. An example of a sentence with this word is “the lesson focused on the dichotomy of the land and the sea.”
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23. "Defame..."

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  1. Said or done on a whim
  2. A proclamation made without evidence
  3. A broad range of related items or qualities
  4. To destroy the reputation of
The act of defaming is to damage or destroy a good reputation, often by the use of lies. Synonyms include slander, libel, and smear.
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24. "Discombobulate..."

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  1. To organize quickly
  2. To reject with contempt
  3. To confuse
  4. To standstill
The word discombobulate means to confuse. Rumor has it that the word first appeared in the 1800s.
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25. "Delicacy..."

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  1. An expensive and/or rare food
  2. Exposing to ridicule
  3. Expressing extreme contempt
  4. Filling to one’s satisfaction
When one speaks of a delicacy, it is often in association with a fine, expensive, or rare food. But the word can also mean fragile or someone susceptible to sickness.
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26. "Daredevil..."

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  1. A person who behaves recklessly
  2. To carefully examine
  3. To be below the threshold of
  4. To put down by force or intimidation
A daredevil is a reckless person who finds joy in doing dangerous things. They take unnecessary risks and are quite brazen with their actions.
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27. "Defiant..."

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  1. Not tense or taut
  2. Resistant to conforming
  3. Something that is very consistent
  4. The act of placing things or people into groups
Someone who is defiant resists having to conform or do anything that is expected. One might think of them as a rebel or someone who is noncompliant.
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28. "Domineering..."

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  1. To withdraw from an organization
  2. The act of asserting one’s self in an arrogant way
  3. Containing seeds
  4. The study of languages
Domineering is a verb that describes the way one person asserts themselves (and their will) over another person, often in an arrogant, impudent way.
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29. "Disgruntled..."

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  1. Marked with stripes of contrasting colors
  2. An angry or dissatisfied person
  3. In regular succession
  4. A personal belief
Someone who is described as being disgruntled is not a happy person; they are either angry or dissatisfied or a combination of the two.
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30. "Disheveled..."

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  1. Set apart from others
  2. Having the features of a cat
  3. To be untidy or unkempt
  4. Happening or occurring at the same time
If someone or something is described as being disheveled, it means that they are untidy or unkempt. Most of the time, however, the word describes someone’s hair.
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31. "Dismantle..."

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  1. A petty squabble
  2. Something that is foul or repulsive
  3. To spend money extravagantly
  4. To take apart
To dismantle something means to take it apart. This can be done manually or with the help of tools or machines.
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32. "Disposable..."

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  1. Seemingly unaffected by pain or pleasure
  2. Something that isn’t growing or changing
  3. To deprive of strength
  4. Intended for one or very few uses
An object that is disposable is one that is intended be used once or a few times. Because they are meant to be discarded quickly, they are often recyclable.
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33. "Dichromatic..."

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  1. Adaptable in nature
  2. Having two colors
  3. To pray humbly for something
  4. To forcefully prevent
The prefix ‘di’ means two, and the suffix ‘chrom’ means color. So it would stand to reason that the word dichromatic would refer to something that has two colors.
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34. "Dissolve..."

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  1. Compliant or obedient
  2. To make senseless or dizzy
  3. To become incorporated into a liquid
  4. To wear off or die down
When it comes to businesses and organizations, the word dissolve means to close down or dismiss. Its more common meaning refers to when a solid becomes fully incorporated into a liquid, like when sugar melts into water.
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35. "Dilapidated..."

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  1. To do as a means of surviving
  2. A person who inherits a title
  3. In a state of ruin or disrepair
  4. In opposition of an established government
If something (usually a building or item) is dilapidated, that means that it is in a state of ruin or disrepair. This can happen due to a combination of aging and neglect.
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36. "Devoid..."

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  1. To be completely lacking
  2. To make dirty
  3. Having or showing a disdain for
  4. Something too old to be useful
Devoid is an adjective that describes something that is completely without or lacking in. If someone were to say that a person was devoid of emotion, it means that that person has or shows no emotion.
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37. "Distill..."

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  1. A process of purifying
  2. Placed on top of
  3. More than is needed or required
  4. Not able to be explained by physical laws
Distilling is a process of purification that occurs by vaporization, followed by condensation. This process can be done to alcohol.
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38. "Dwell..."

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  1. Taking the place of
  2. Materials that nourish the body
  3. A person who pleases others to gain an advantage
  4. To live in
To dwell means to live somewhere, whereas a dwelling is a home. Synonyms for dwell include reside and live.
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39. "Debrief..."

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  1. To make more attractive
  2. To interview after a project is completed
  3. Finding the balance between two or more items
  4. Meaning the name or almost the same thing
The act of debriefing someone involves asking them questions about an experience or project they just completed. It is a word often associated with spies and secret agents, who need to be ‘debriefed’ (questioned) after a successful or failed mission.
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40. "Demeanor..."

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  1. To be in active support of
  2. To cause someone to feel shame
  3. Someone’s outward appearance
  4. A state of misfortune
Demeanor is a word that is used to refer to someone’s bearing or outward behavior. Synonyms include manner, attitude, and air.
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41. "Deputize..."

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  1. Having a great supply of
  2. To make into a deputy
  3. To have a close connection to
  4. Finding repugnant
Deputize is a verb, which means to make someone a deputy. It can also mean to speak or act like a deputy, for a short period of time.
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42. "Delirium..."

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  1. Present in great quantity
  2. In a disturbed state of mind
  3. To refrain from doing something
  4. Something that exists only in the mind
Delirium can be used to describe a state of wild excitement or rapture. But more often, it is used in reference to a person being in a disturbed state of mind.
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43. "Downpour..."

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  1. To express agreement with
  2. A harsh tone
  3. To get used to a certain environment
  4. Heavy rainfall
Put simply, a downpour is heavy rainfall. An example of it being used in a sentence is, “This downpour has been going on for the past six hours.”
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44. "Disseminate..."

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  1. To stick to an idea or plan firmly
  2. Marked by strong resentment
  3. To betray
  4. To spread information
To disseminate means to spread something around, usually to a wide group of people. The thing being spread is most likely information.
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45. "Dwindle..."

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  1. Moving quickly and lightly
  2. To be excited or anxious about
  3. To scold or reprimand
  4. To diminish or lessen
The word dwindle describes something that is diminishing or lessening. It can be in size, in strength, or in number.
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46. "Dormant..."

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  1. A feeling of intense dislike
  2. Something that serves as a model
  3. Belonging to nobility
  4. Temporarily inactive
Dormant is often used to describe plants, animals, and volcanoes. A dormant plant is one that is alive but not growing. A dormant volcano is one that is temporarily inactive. And a dormant animal is one whose physical functions have been slowed down or suspended.
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47. "Divination..."

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  1. To provide physical relief
  2. To try to see the future through supernatural means
  3. An ambitious plan or lofty goal
  4. Having more than one meaning
Divination is the act of seeking knowledge about the future by supernatural means. It was one of many subjects in the Harry Potter novels and movies.
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48. "Damsel..."

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  1. To make better
  2. To make amends for
  3. A young woman
  4. Characterized by goodwill
A damsel is an old-fashioned word used to describe a young woman. It was often paired with the words “in distress,” particularly in cartoons, books, and movies and referred to a woman who needed saving.
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49. "Disappear..."

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  1. To deviate from the norm
  2. Something that has stopped being visible
  3. Having no name or identity
  4. Having no particular form or shape
The act of disappearing requires a person to stop being visible. It can also refer to someone who has gone missing or is lost or something that has ceased to exist.
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50. "Declivity..."

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  1. Petty or reluctant to spend
  2. A downward slope
  3. To break on purpose
  4. To infuse or fill completely
Declivity is a fancy noun that describes a downward slope or inclination or bend. Synonyms include descent and declination.
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