Applying to graduate school is a big step for many people. It’s a commitment of time, money, and dedication for several years. The requirement to make such a commitment might prevent someone who is more timorous from even beginning the application process. Timorous means timid, afraid, or fearful. The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem titled “To A Mouse” in which he calls the mouse a “wee, sleekit, cowrin’, tim’rous beastie” – that is, a small, quick, trembling, fearful animal.
Example: Some of the contestants in the spelling bee are so nervous that the judges can hardly hear their timorous voices, even with the microphone.
Aesop wrote a fable titled “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse” about a timorous mouse living in the quiet countryside who receives a visit from her city cousin and, impressed by his urbane manner and descriptions of easy living and fancy food in town, follows him home for a visit. The word urbane comes from the Latin root urbs, meaning “city.” You can also see this root in the words suburb (“part of the city”) and urban (“of the city”). Urbane means polished, gentrified, polite, courteous – in other words, the sixteenth-century idealized version of a “civilized” city dweller, as opposed to the rough, crude peasants living on the farms. These days, the word is generally used to describe someone who is courteous, self-confident and worldly.
Example: Felicia spent her childhood traveling the world with her father, the diplomat, and although she is only sixteen years old, her urbane manner leads people to believe her to be much older.
Oh, did you want to hear the rest of the story of the country mouse and the city mouse? Although there was indeed a lot of delicious food – cheese left on the table, and crumbs of bread and cake on the floor – the cats and dogs in the house chase the mice away, scaring the country mouse back home to her simple, quiet life. “Better a crust in peace than a loaf in fear,” she says.
We know that after you’ve been studying these powerful vocabulary words you won’t be timorous about using them, and your urbane conversational style will impress even the most sophisticated city mouse!