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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Compound Words

What do you get when you cross two common English words together? Well, in the instances below, the definition has become transmogrified into something very different from the combination of the two words would suggest. Can you guess the definitions without looking?


Imagine somebody winking to you from underneath a hood (a menacing image, no doubt). Surely, none of us would trust such a person. Perhaps not too surprisingly, ‘hoodwink’ means to deceive.

In his first 4 hours in Manhattan, Steven had been hoodwinked multiple times; even the cab had driven him around for an hour to go all of seven blocks.



The definition of this word does not relate to a bird. But like the intersecting feathers on a dove’s tail, the word dovetail means to connect or fit together harmoniously.

Despite a compelling intro, John’s essay failed to dovetail with his thesis.



No, it’s not a new Olympic event in which the participants slap their own faces, running full speed down the track. Anything that is slapdash is done in a careless manner.

His resume was done in a slapdash manner, with many unexplained gaps in his job record.



This word does not mean to being moving towards the ceiling. An upstart is any person who suddenly achieves power or wealth and begins to act arrogantly.

Recently minting a million from a favorable turn in the stock market, Joe was nothing more than an upstart, throwing his weight around at the country club.



Okay, the first word isn’t common at all, but it’s ‘sine.’ You know, ‘cosine,’ ‘sine’ and that other trigonometry stuff (don’t worry, it will not be on the GRE). Sinecure, of course, is not a remedy for too much trigonometry. It comes from the Latin sine cura, and means without care.

A sinecure is any job that requires very little work. You can think of it as a semiretirement.

As the son of a magnate, Bill, at the ripe age of 30, had the perfect sinecure; from his corner office suite he would have “meetings” with executives that amounted to nothing more than an occasion to uncork expensive bottles of wine. 


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8 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Compound Words

  1. vaisnavi August 13, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    @Chris Sir

    It might not fit here, but just thought to share with u the different words being used to indicate colors.

    A) Alizarin= A solid appearing reddish-orange as crystals and brownish-yellow as powder.

    B) Bistre= A brownish pigment extracted from the soot of wood.

    C) Celadon= A pale gray green.

    D) Cerulean= Deep blue, sky blue, azure.

    E) Chartreuse= A clear, light green with a yellowish tinge.

    F) Cinnabar= Bright red, vermillion.

    G) Ecru= Very light brown in color, as raw silk.

    H) Fulvous= Tawdry, dull yellowish- gray or yellowish- brown.

    I) Lapiz Lazuli= A sky blue color, azure.

    J) Ochre= Pale yellow to orange and yellow.

    K) Peridot= a green transparent variety of olivine, used as a gem.

    L) Puce= Of a dark or brownish purple.

    M) Refous= Reddish, tinged with red, brownish red.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Wow, that is quite a list :). From my experience, the GRE has never tested colors, but these can definitely be filed away under “fun facts? (Alizarin and Bistre were both new to me!).

  2. Chirag August 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Hello. I have a suggestion. Hope you like it.
    Well why don’t you post an essay or article or something like that every week like you do for vocab.
    We all can read that article and increase our vocab through that.
    As reading is a good habit and it increases our vocab, If you can add an article every week which has GRE words than it will be helpful.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      Hi Chirag,

      That’s a great idea! In fact, I just implemented it by referring to topical posts and providing the link.

      However, I do like your idea. I can pick out just one article/essay and highlight pertinent words.

      Thanks for the suggestion :).

      • Chirag August 14, 2012 at 2:16 am #

        Welcome. 🙂
        Do it every week if possible.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris August 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

          I’ll try, but with so many articles to write, it may have to be bi-weekly :).

  3. Nikhil August 9, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    Piebald- (means mottled).
    Definitely not a pastry with a receding hair line!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

      Nice! I may just include that in the next compound words post :).

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