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The Top Ten GRE Words Beginning with the Letter ‘C’

I’ve never endorsed studying words alphabetically. Not only is this method boring and predictable, but many words tend to blend into together. By the time you get to augment, many of the other ‘A’-words become a blur of syllables.

That said, the alphabetical approach in small doses should by no means be deleterious. And, for me, organizing words in this fashion, I can include words that have thus far not fallen snugly into any of the vocab theme posts.

For this post, I focused on the letter ‘C’ – but made sure that the list itself (the one below) was not in alphabetical order.

While these aren’t really the top ten ‘C’ words you have to know (meaning you won’t automatically score in the 0 – 10% range if you forget the meaning of corroborate), I have picked words that, based on ETS material to this date, have a very high likelihood of showing up on the test. Finally, these words are used often in a formal context, and should, therefore, be part of any grad school bound student’s vocabulary.


Conciliate (v.) – to make peace with

His opponents believed his gesture to be conciliatory, yet as soon as they put down their weapons, he unsheathed a hidden sword. 


Corroborate (v.) – to confirm or lend support to (usually an idea or claim)

Her claim that frog populations were falling precipitously in Central America was corroborated by locals, who reported that many species of frogs had seemingly vanished overnight.


Calumny (v.) – a false statement meant to injure a person’s reputation

With the presidential primaries well under way, the air is thick with calumny, and the mud is already waist-high.


Commensurate (adj.) – in proportion or corresponding in degree or amount

The definition of this word tends to be a little unwieldy, regardless of the source. Therefore, it is a word that screams to be understood in context (for this very reason, GRE loves commensurate, because they know that those who just devour flashcards will not understand how the word works in a sentences). Speaking of a sentence…

The convicted felon’s life sentence was commensurate to the heinousness of his crime.  

An increase in crop yield will not lead to a commensurate increase in profit, as the market is already glutted with too many crops.


Churlish (adj.) – lacking manners or refinement; rude and unpleasant

The manager was unnecessarily churlish to his subordinates, rarely deigning to say hello, but always quick with a sartorial jab if someone happened to be wearing anything even slightly unbecoming.


Castigate (v.) – to reprimand harshly

This word is very similar to chastise. They even have the same etymology (word history).

Drill sergeants are known to castigate new recruits so mercilessly that the latter often break down during their first week in training.


Chastise (v.) – to reprimand harshly

See sentence for castigate.


Cogent (adj.) – clear and persuasive

His essay writing, while full of clever turns of phrases, lacks cogency.


Contentious (adj.) – controversial (in terms of an issue); inclined to arguing (in terms of a person)

This word does not mean content. It comes from contend, which means to argue. Be chary (see below) of this word.

As soon as the discussion turns to politics, Uncle Hank becomes highly contentious, vehemently disagreeing with those who endorse the same positions.


Chary (adj.) – cautious

Chary rhymes with wary. They are also synonyms.

Jack was wary of GRE words that looked similar, because they usually had different definitions; not so with chary, a word that he began to use interchangeably with wary.


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20 Responses to The Top Ten GRE Words Beginning with the Letter ‘C’

  1. dien dan rao vat November 21, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I iin finding It truly helpful & it helped
    me out much. I am hopig to gve something back and aid others such as you aided me.

  2. Aman April 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Thanks Chris
    And an a word more to supplement THE EX EFFECT

    • Chris Lele
      Chris April 3, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      That’s a great word! And don’t forget its verb form: execrate.

  3. Aman April 1, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    One more addition to c family

    • Chris Lele
      Chris April 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      Yes, perhaps in ‘commemoration’ of the word :).

  4. Aman March 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Ok i read in a dictionary that its a written explanation…may be its wrong over there as it wasn’t a trusted one…
    Now i got it clear…

    • Chris Lele
      Chris April 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm #


  5. Aman March 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Ya right Chris and exegesis is a written explanation

    • Chris Lele
      Chris March 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

      Exegesis is an interpretation of a written work. An exegesis does not have to be written.

  6. Aman March 29, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    More on EX-effect or dreded x


    All means to explain

    • Chris Lele
      Chris March 29, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      That’s a good common bond, though there are some important differences in usage.

      The professor was not fond of ____, and rather than elaborate on his ideas, he left students in the dark.

      A) exposition
      B) expounding
      C) exegesis

      Here the answer can only be B), as exposition implies a comprehensive description of an idea vs. merely elaborating and describing in detail the way that expounding does. Exegesis relates to interpretation of a scholarly work.

  7. Aman March 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Again an incomplete one (Getting nervous day by day and loosing confidence)
    please do include x words as my exams date ………

  8. Aman March 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Ya Inchoate ..sry for the typos-result
    Of typing through phn when half asleep..
    Please do my exam date is just round the corner and i am getting anxious..

    • Chris Lele
      Chris March 29, 2012 at 11:33 am #

      Got it – will have the ex- post out in a few days, and will also have a special youtube video on it :).

  9. Aman March 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Well though there are many words which are same sound and difficult to discriminate but i struggled a bit withthese EX one (I call it the EX effect)

    Exacerbate- To make it worsen

    Excerpate- free from blame

    Expurgate- censorship

    Extuneate- to calm someone/ make less worsen

    Extonerate- to clear from blame

    Exulant- happy

    If nyone have a gud trick to learn these please let me know….

    • Chris Lele
      Chris March 28, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      I like that – the ‘ex’ effect :).

      But I see a few typos in your ex- list, so I think we should ex them out :).

      Excerpate = exculpate

      extuneate = extenuate

      extonerate = exonerate

      exulant = exultant

      As for mnemonics, I will add this to the queue of things to do – Mnemonics for the dreaded X-words!

  10. Aman March 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Consummate – incomplete like inconoate
    Commiserate- sympathy

    N there was one more that rimes with commensurate

    • Chris Lele
      Chris March 28, 2012 at 11:42 am #

      Hi Aman,

      Actually consummate means absolute, 100%. Also did you mean ‘inchoate’?

  11. Robert December 1, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    baby swan, n’est-ce pas?

  12. mary November 28, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    what about my favorite C word?….haha not the 4 letter one….


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