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GRE Vocabulary From Unlikely Places


GRE Vocabulary From Exotic Tongues


To many, this word was forever immortalized in X-Men 2 X-Men 3 (thanks to @awwwyoutried for pointing out this mistake!), when one of the main characters, Juggernaut, ran through walls, pulverizing them. This power to knock over and destroy anything in its path can also be traced to the original juggernaut, a word that comes to us via Hindi. A juggernaut was a large temple vehicle—and when I mean large I mean humongous—under which followers of Krishna would supposedly throw themselves.

Today, the word juggernaut doesn’t necessarily include any grizzly sacrifices, but refers to any large force that cannot be stopped.

Napoleon was considered a juggernaut, until he decided to invade Russia in winter; within weeks his once seemingly indomitable army was decimated by cold and famine.


Schadenfreude is one of those words that at first glance may seem gratuitous. After all, do we really need a word that literally translates from the German as harm-joy? Unfortunately, a twisted quirk of human nature is that we can sometimes take joy in the suffering of others. Luckily, German has provided us a word to use if we ever see someone cackling sardonically at the suffering of others.

From his warm apartment window, Stanley reveled in schadenfreude as he laughed at the figures below, huddled together in the arctic chill.


This word looks like it got jumbled up while I was typing. Believe it or not, lagniappe is not the result of errant fingers on my part, but comes to us from Louisiana. In Cajun country, in the 19th Century, a lagniappe was any unexpected gift. By no means a common GRE word, if lagniappe happens to show up on the test, then consider it an unexpected gift.


To run amuck is to run about frenzied. While this word comes to us via Malay, you don’t have to live on the Malaysian peninsula to witness people running amuck.

Wherever the bowl-cut teen-idol went, his legions of screaming fans ran through the streets amuck, hoping for one glance at his boyish face.


I learned melee early in my life, because I had the peculiar misfortune of having a surname that rhymes with it. While none of this schoolyard teasing resulted in any melees, it’ll behoove you to know that it means a wild, confusing fight or struggle. Oh, and it comes from French (rhyming similarities aside, my last name is not derived from French).

So, commit these unlikely vocab words to memory. It’s always good to expand your vocab in general, and you never know when these words may pop-up come test day.

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4 Responses to GRE Vocabulary From Unlikely Places

  1. gaurika June 26, 2013 at 5:05 am #

    hi chris.. could you tell me the difference between schadenfreude n sadism ??

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 27, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      Hi Gaurika,

      So schadenfreude is to taking joy in other’s suffering or misfortune. So let’s say you see some stumble and fall. Or read about a person who lost all their money to gambling. Schadenfreude is delighting in such misfortune, whether that misfortune is psychological. A sadist, on the other hand, derives enjoyment from inflicting pain on another person. If a sadist punches somebody, the sadist feels not pangs of remorse, but raw titillation.

      Hope that makes sense!

      • gaurika June 27, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

        Definitely does !!! 🙂

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

          You are welcome!

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