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Halloween GRE Vocabulary List

“Hello, ghouls and goblins” may be a familiar refrain for those who remember Halloween fondly (or for those still knocking on doors looking for a sugar fix).

But for those planning to take the GRE, and perhaps do a little trick-or-treating, “Hello, bugaboos” is more apt (A bugaboo is anything – person or idea – that inspires fear). That’s right – there are many frightening words in the GRE lexicon. So what better way than Halloween to meet these fiendish and frightening words?


1.     Cadaverous

If someone is so skinny or emaciated that they look like a dead person, then that person is cadaverous. This word comes from cadaver, which is a corpse. Besides emaciated, a good synonym for cadaverous is gaunt.

Some actors take challenging roles in which they have to lose so much weight that they appear cadaverous.


2.     Macabre

If a story, film, or, for that matter, any description is filled with gruesome details about death and horror, we say that it is macabre.

Edgar Allen Poe was considered the master of the macabre – his stories vividly describe the moment leading up to – and often those moments after – a grisly death.


3.     Goosebumps

I would never have considered this a vocabulary word (let alone a GRE word), until, that is, the New GRE Power Prep test included a text-completion in which goosebumps was the answer.

Goosebumps describe that sensation on our skin when we become frightened. You know, those sudden pimple-like bumps that suddenly appear when you are watching the first half of a horror movie (the last part of horror movies are typically cheesy, once they show the monster).  Well, this is now a good word to remember for the GRE, lest you want to get goosebumps test day.


4.     Diabolical 

This word comes from the Latin and Greek for devil (for those speak Spanish, you may notice that the word is very similar to diablo). To be diabolical is to be extremely wicked like the devil.

The conspirators, willing to dispatch anyone who stood in their way, hatched a diabolical plan to take over the city,


5.     Phantasmagorical

This is a terrifying word, just from the standpoint of pronunciation. [fan-taz-muhgawr-ik-al] The definition is equally frightening– a series of images that seem as though they are out of a dream, whether those images are real or in one’s head.

Those suffering from malaria fall into a feverish sleep, their world a whirligig of phantasmagoria – if they recover, they are unsure of what actually took place and what was simply a product of their febrile imaginations.


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2 Responses to Halloween GRE Vocabulary List

  1. klr November 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Someone with a wasting disease could be described as emaciated or cadaverous. Not all corpse are emaciated.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 5, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      Yes KLR, that’s true. I did say cadaver is a corpse, but a cadaver is usually used in the medical field for students dissecting dead bodies. By this time, the dried up bodies have become emaciated. No bloated corpses under the scalpel, I presume.

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