English Words in Action, Group T

(a variety of English words which have developed through history and are currently used in our modern age)

English vocabulary quizzes in random order from easy to more difficult for greater word skills.

Simply click on this banner (or the following link) and you will be on your way to stimulate your brain for greater word comprehension with quizzes based on some of the words in this unit.

tantalize (verb), tantalizes; tantalized; tantalizing
1. To show or to promise something that a person or animal undoubtedly wants, but then not allowing him, her, or it to have it: Little Jeffrey's parents really scolded him when he was tantalising and teasing their dog with some food which he never gave to it.

The smell of the meat cooking on the stove for the family's dinner tantalised their cat, but it wasn't permitted to eat any of it because there was canned food that was intended for it.
2. Etymology: from Greek, Tantalos, "the Bearer" or "the Sufferer," + -ize, "to form verbs."

To keep something desirable in view but out of reach.
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tantrum (s) (noun), tantrums (pl)
1. Outbursts of temper, fits of passion, emotional explosion, or rage: Corinne's little boy's tantrums were caused by frustrations and probably intensified by a lack of sleep as a result of his illness.
2. An angry outburst by a child or by anyone who is behaving like a child: Whenever Nolan doesn't get his way at work, he goes into tantrums.
Bad temper as shown during a fit of anger.
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tarantism (s) (noun) (no plural)
1. A physical disorder that occurred in southern Italy in the 1400s to 1600s which was characterized by hysteria and frenzied, uncontrollable dancing: Tarantism was associated with the bite of a tarantula spider, but it was probably a psychosomatic condition where the mind influenced the body to create or to exacerbate an illness or to make it worse.

This unusual affliction of tarantism was associated with melancholy, stupor, madness, and an uncontrollable desire to dance that was violent and energetic and it often continued for three or four days and such dancing was considered the only cure for the tarantula venom.

2. Etymology: tarantism (also called tarantismo or tarantolismo) comes from the town of Taranto, Italy."
tarantula (s) (noun), tarantulas (pl)
A large hairy spider found primarily in tropical and subtropical America, where some kinds are able to catch small lizards, frogs, and birds: The biologists were studying the various kinds of hairy tarantula spiders.

Tarantula is the name for any of various large, hairy, ground-dwelling, predaceous (hunter and killer) spiders.

Tarantulas are large black wolf spiders of southern Europe whose bites were formerly believed to cause tarantism or what appeared to be an uncontrollable desire to dance.

The historical background of tarantula spiders

In about 708 B.C., a group of Greeks from Sparta moved across the Adriatic Sea and established a colony on a favorable spot on a seacoast in southern Italy called Tarentum.

The current city, now called Taranto, is a naval base in Italy; however, the region around ancient Tarentum had a species of fearsome-looking, hairy spiders that were capable of inflicting painful, if not dangerous, bites.

Based on the name of the place where this spider was discovered, it was called a tarantula and so, during the MiddleAges, when a strange disease broke out in various parts of Europe which caused twitching or jerking of the limbs of the people that were afflicted and was accompanied by an almost uncontrollable impulse to dance, it was blamed on the bites of the tarantulas.

Based on the false belief that tarantula bites caused the disease, the so called dance was called tarantism and now it is called chorea (Greek, choreia, "dance"), disorders of the nervous system shown by involuntary, jerky movements; especially, of the arms, legs, face, and by ceaseless rapid complex body movements that look well coordinated and purposeful but are, in fact, involuntary and uncontrollable.

—Primarily compiled from information presented in
Thereby Hangs a Tale, Stories of Curious Word Origins by Charles Earle Funk;
Harper & Row, Publishers; New York; 1950; pages 273-274.
tarnish (verb), tarnishes; tarnished; tarnishing
1. To stain or to lose brightness or luster; especially, because of exposure to dirt, dampness, or air: Silver can tarnish easily and needs to be cleaned regularly to keep its brilliancy.
2. To make less valuable; to disgrace; to degrade; to dishonor: The scandal in the news certainly tarnished Mr. Smith's reputation as a good mayor of his city.
3. Etymology: from French ternir, "to make dull"; from terne, "lusterless".
To besmirch or to sully someone's reputation.
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tattoo (s) (noun), tattoos (pl)
1. A word, picture, etc. which is drawn on a person's skin by using a needle and ink: Henrietta had a tattoo of her husband's name on the back of her right shoulder.

The removal of a tattoo is usually difficult and it is not always satisfactory; because, a big scar almost always results.

Sometimes doctors treat small tattoos by completely removing the colored area of the skin and stitching the wound together at the edges.

2. A fast rhythmic beat: The rain could be heard hitting a tattoo on the roof of the back porch.

A continuous rhythmical beating tattoo was being made on a drum by the musicians.

3. An outdoor performance in the evening with music and marching by members of a military group: The local army unit was entertaining the local citizens in the evening at the summer fest with special tattoos.
4. Etymology: from Dutch taptoe, "to shut the tap (of a beer barrel)"; a signal at closing time in the taverns. Originally, "a signal for military people, or soldiers, to return to their quarters".
tattoo (verb), tattoos; tattooed; tattooing
Introducing permanent colors under the surface of the skin to make decorative designs on the skin: People who were tattooed even as far back as a thousand years ago, had it done originally as a means of identification.

When the skins of people are tattooed, even by professionals, it is potentially dangerous; especially, if the person who tattoos does not follow strict sterile procedures because hepatitis and AIDS can be transmitted through the needles that introduce the dyes.

tattooed (adjective), more tattooed, most tattooed
A reference to skin that has been marked in colors with designs or patterns with a special needle: A sailor had a tattooed ship on his arm.

Large tattooed areas on the skin are sometimes removed by dermabrasion (high-speed sanding to reduce the pitted scars) or laser (concentrated beam of light radiation) treatments in order to decrease the size of the scars.

tattooer (s) (noun), tattooers (pl)
A person who marks or designs patterns with permanent colors on the skins of customers: Jim is a tattooer who creates images and words for both female and male clients.
tawdriness (s) (noun), tawdrinesses (pl)
A lack of good taste; and so, being cheap, gaudy, and showy: The candidate's immoral affairs resulted in a tawdriness that became known to the public and so it destroyed any chance of his running for any political office again.
tawdry (TAW dree) (adjective), more tawdry, most tawdry
1. Unpleasant, immoral, shameful; mean-spirited and lacking in human decency: Several politicians have ruined their political careers with tawdry affairs while in office, and consequently, they have found it difficult to escape their shameful behaviors.
2. Inexpensive and of bad quality; gaudy and cheap: Some people think that the talented violinist dresses in a tawdry style (old blue jeans, hair in a pony tail, etc.) which are in bad taste for the concerts he gives.
Cheap and showy, but without any elegance.
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teeming (adjective), more teeming, most teeming
1. Referring to the abundance of something, like fish or people: Jack looked into the clear water and saw teeming masses of trout and decided that he wanted to go fishing tomorrow.
2. Concerning that which is crowded or bustling: The teeming multitudes of journalists were hustling and elbowing around for the best spot outside the city hall in order to get the best photos and interviews.
3. Etymology: from the Old English teman, "to give birth to" from "being fertile, pregnant, or producing babies."
A reference to being prolific or abounding in ideas, etc.
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tenebrous (adjective), more tenebrous, most tenebrous
1. Descriptive of something which is dark and gloomy: When Jane and her family visited the old castle, it seemed to be tenebrous because it was creepy with shadows that gave the impression that there were ghosts moving around in it!
2. Etymology: from Latin tenebrosus, "dark"; from tenebrae, "darkness, shadows."
A reference to being dark and gloomy.
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tenuous (TEN yoo uhs) (adjective), more tenuous, most tenuous
1. Referring to something which has little substance; is flimsy; has extreme thinness; is slender or slim: James could provide only a tenuous claim to ownership of the contents of his thesis.

The valley is covered with a tenuous mist.

Tenuous also describes something that is used in a more figurative sense meaning of slight importance; weak; flimsy; vague; unsubstantial; such as, presenting a tenuous argument, story, or claim.

2. Etymology: from Latin tenuis, "thin, drawn out, meager, slender"+ -ous an element that makes adjectives from nouns, meaning "having, full of, inclined to."
A reference to being unsubstantial or lacking value.
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tenuously (adverb), more tenuously, most tenuously
A reference to something that is uncertain, weak, or indefinite: The judge determined that Charles was tenuously connected to the robbery that took place in his neighborhood.

Links to all of the groups of English words in action, Groups A to Z.

You may see the bibliographic list of sources of information for these words in action.