100 Most Common SAT Words

Updated June 2, 2021
study for SAT vocabulary with index cards
    study for SAT vocabulary with index cards
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Studying for the SATs can be a trying experience. One easy way to raise your score is to memorize SAT vocabulary words. The Critical Reading section will test your ability to recognize words in context, so knowing as many of these words as possible in advance is a great way to increase your score. We’ve made a list of the 100 most common SAT words to improve your vocabulary skills and raise your overall SAT score.

SAT Vocabulary List

The Critical Reading Section of the SAT has both a reading comprehension component and an SAT vocabulary component. The vocabulary component, which asks you to select a word from a multiple choice list, tests your knowledge of the definition of common words. The 100 words below all appear frequently on the test.


Easier Words

The SAT doesn’t test many easy words, alas. However, the following list is fairly straightforward, both in presenting words you might have encountered before and in definitions that are simple and without much ambiguity. On a few occasions, the words can be more than one part of speech. We’ve provided notes to make that clear.





Abate (v.)

To reduce, to lessen

Emulate (v.)

Following someone else's example

Abstain (v.)

To refrain from doing something

Empathy (n.)

Feeling what someone else is feeling

Adversity (n.)

Hardship, misfortune

Exemplary (adj.)


Arid (v.)

Very dry

Florid (adj.)


Benevolent (adj.)

Well-meaning, helpful

Fortitude (n.)


Bias (v., n.)

Prejudice for or against something, or to prejudice someone for or against something

Fortuitous (adj.)


Brazen (adj.)


Foster (v.)

Promote, aid

Collaborate (v.)

Work together

Frugal (adj.)


Compassion (n.)


Inconsequential (adj.)

Without consequence, trivial, doesn't matter

Compromise (v., n.)

To meet in the middle, to settle differences

Longevity (n.)

Long, esp. of life

Condescending (adj.)

Patronizing, talking down to

Mundane (adj.)

Boring, ordinary

Conformist (adj., n.)

Someone who follows the majority

Nonchalant (adj.)

Casual, calm, at ease

Convergence (n.)

Coming together

Procrastinate (v.)

To delay, often unnecessarily

Diligent (adj.)

Hardworking, dedicated

Prosperity (n.)


Discredit (v.)

To dishonor someone, or prove something untrue

Prudent (adj.)

Careful, wise

Disdain (n., v.)

To regard with scorn

Restrained (adj.)

Controlled, not free

Divergent (adj.)

Moving apart, going in different directions

Reverence (n.)

Deep respect


Intermediate Words

These are a bit tougher. The definitions are still fairly straightforward, but the words themselves are less commonly used. Again, when it’s possible a word might appear on the test in either of two parts of speech in the same form, we’ve noted it for you.





Aesthetic (adj., n.)

About beauty, or a particular perspective on beauty

Intrepid (adj.)


Amicable (adj.)


Intuitive (adj.):

Knowing something by instinct

Boisterous (adj.):

Enthusiastic, loud

Lobbyist (n.):

One who represents an interest group to government officials

Brusque (adj.):

Short, rude

Opulent (adj.):


Camaraderie (n.):

Togetherness, trust, friendship

Orator (n.):


Canny (adj.):

Careful, showing good judgment

Parched (v., adj.):

To have removed water from, or when something is dried up

Clairvoyant (adj., n.):

Able to predict the future, or one who can predict the future

Pragmatic (adj.):


Conditional (adj.):

Contingent upon something else

Pretentious (adj.):

Thinking yourself better than others

Demagogue (n.)

Rabble-rousing leader

Provocative (adj.):

Causes a fuss, inflammatory, likely to get people riled up

Digression (n.):

Straying from the main point

Reclusive (adj.):

Hermit, withdrawn

Fraught (adj.)

Filled with, especially of tension or negative emotion

Reconciliation (n.):

The act of bringing people together or making an agreement

Haughty (n.):

Being arrogant, talking down to people

Renovation (n.):

Being new, being redone

Hypothesis (n.):

Unproven theory, educated guess

Sagacity (n.)


Inevitable (adj.):

Unavoidable, definitely going to happen

Scrutinize (v.):

To look at carefully

Inspect (v.)

To look at closely, to assess

Spontaneous (adj.):

Being impulsive, acting without thinking


Challenging Words

These are the toughest words we’re presenting. Don’t despair! There’s nothing intrinsically mysterious about these words. They’re just uncommon in everyday conversation and on occasion their definitions are a bit ambiguous.





Aberration (n.)

Something unusual, different from the norm

Hackneyed (adj.)


Abdicate (v.)

Give up a position

Hedonist (n., adj.)

Person who acts in pursuit of pleasure

Abhor (v.)

To really hate

Impetuous (adj.)

Rash, impulsive

Anachronistic (adj.)

Out of the context of time, out of date

Impute (v.)

To assign or attribute to someone

Anomaly (n.)

Something out of place, a strangeness

Jubilation (n.)

Extreme happiness, joy

Apex (n.)


Melodramatic (adj.)

Exaggerated, extreme

Asylum (n.)

Sanctuary, place of safety

Null (adj.)

Void, meaningless

Capacious (adj.)

Very large, spacious

Ostentatious (adj.)

Flaunting wealth

Capitulate (v.)


Perfidious (adj.)


Corroborate (v.)

To back up a claim

Precocious (adj.)

Gifted or talented beyond one's years

Deleterious (adj.)


Querulous (adj.)

Irritable, prone to argument

Demur (v.)

Object to

Rancorous (adj.)

Hateful, unpleasant

Enervating (adj.)


Spurious (adj.)

False, untrue

Entail (v.)

To involve or include

Substantiate (v.)

To confirm, prove

Ephemeral (adj.)

Fleeting, temporary

Superfluous (adj.)

Unnecessary, too much

Evanescent (adj.)

Not lasting long

Surreptitious (adj.)


Extenuating (adj.)

Something that makes the situation not as bad

Venerable (adj.)

Respectable because of its age

Forbearance (n.):

Patience, restraint

Vindicate (v.)

To free from blame, to justify in a belief


Tips for Learning SAT Vocabulary Words

Learning vocabulary words can be difficult. Here are some tips to help learn these 100 words, and any other SAT vocabulary words you may come across in the future.

Create Flashcards With Unfamiliar Words

Memorizing words with flashcards is a classic way to study up on unfamiliar vocabulary. You can even use our editable flashcard template PDF for the purpose.

Make an Audio Recording

This is a great tip for auditory learners. If you find it easiest to remember a word and its definition when you’ve heard it out loud, simply read it out loud! Put together a recording with each word and its definition, and you’ll be well on your way.

Use New Words in a Sentence

The most important trick to learning new words is context. The best way to get that context is the same way it will be presented to you on the SAT: in a sentence. We’ve provided a few examples here:

  • The student procrastinated until just before the SAT to start studying; he didn’t do as well as he had hoped.
  • Her admission to college was conditional on her performance on the SAT Verbal, so she studied hard.
  • There was much jubilation in class after all the students scored high on the SAT.

List the Words in Logical Groups

Breaking our lists into smaller groups makes them easier to grasp. Consider making your own lists based on parts of speech, degree of difficulty, positive or negative connotation, categories of context, or any other logical grouping.

The Final Word

Now that you have a starting point, explore the many resources available to help you achieve full mastery of SAT vocabulary words. Free Vocabulary has a list of 5,000 SAT words, and Vocabulary University has a list of the top 180 SAT words. Or, right here at YourDictionary, you can check out our lists of the 100 Most Common Words, 140 Beautiful Words and Words With Multiple Meanings for more vocabulary enrichment.