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Confusing GRE Vocabulary Words– Chaff vs. Chafe


The process by which we get wheat—known as threshing—produces a leftover that is thrown out. This leftover is known as chaff. More generally, chaff refers to anything that is worthless.


Colloquially this word is used to describe what happens when skin wear away due to constant rubbing (think of running sockless in a pair of ill-fitting shoes.) To chafe can mean either to irritate or be irritated. (e.g.- He chafed at the constant squawking of birds vs. the birds chafed him with their constant squawking.


1. Because Johnson’s biography is filled with so many cherished insights, any criticism asserting that the work is mostly chaff is —-.

(A) profound

(B) valid

(C) imponderable

(D)  indubitable

(E) suspect


2. CHAFE (Find the antonym!)

(A) vex

(B) appreciate

(C) mollify

(D) encourage

(E) wrangle

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3 Responses to Confusing GRE Vocabulary Words– Chaff vs. Chafe

  1. shobana November 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Are 1. A profound and 2. C mollify the right responses for the two questions? Could I also have an explanation for the answers?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

      Hi Shobana,

      Mollify is correct for the second question. For the first question, you want a word that means wrong for the blank. Only the word suspect works. Profound refers to Johnson’s biography not the criticism of the biography.

      • TS September 15, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

        Hey Chris,

        Answer for the first question, why cant it be ‘Imponderable’?
        Since the book had many cherished insights, therefore any criticism is imponderable- we cant even think of criticizing it..?? Am I going too far in this context? 🙁

        Please help. I usually make such mistakes! 🙁

        Kindly help!!

        Thanx. 🙂

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