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The Giant Synonym Tree of Criticism

One of the most common group of synonyms found on the GRE are those dealing with criticism, slander, and insult. This is actually a pretty big synonym tree, a veritable sequoia, of major branches sprouting such choice words as obloquy and vituperate. The tree is so big in fact that I will only deal with one of the branches today (criticism), as not to barrage you with a hoard of multi-syllabic words.


Criticism Branch

Berate, Castigate, Reprimand, Reprove, Rebuke, Chide, Chastise, Reproach, Upbraid, Censure

Extreme Criticism Sub-Branch

Excoriate, Objurgate, Vituperate, Lambaste


The following branches will be dealt with in future posts:

Angry Speech Branch, Slander Branch, Insult Branch


Of special note are the words reprove and upbraid. Why? Well, reprove sounds like it would mean to prove again. It means nothing of the sort as its inclusion into the criticism tree shows. Reprove could very well gets its entry as a confusing word post (I’ve given it enough of spotlight here.) Again, confusing words are more likely to show up on the GRE, so take note.

Upbraid and censure make the cut—at least in my humble opinion—because the former sounds like it means to braid hair in a particular way. The latter, censure, sounds very much like censor, an act we associate with bleeping out on T.V. (You may see a good mnemonic here—if you censor something it is because you censure it.)

A good way to test how many words you are learning from these synonym tree posts is to test yourself at random. For instance, next time you’re waiting in line at a favorite caffeine watering hole, see how many words you can come up with for to criticize harshly. Just don’t unleash them on an unsuspecting barista.


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