These words tend to show up over and over again on the GRE. The reason ETS chooses these words is hard to say. Some are important words for a grad student to know; others are just easily confusable words (and the GRE always like those kinds of words!).
Prosaic sounds like mosaic, a word many ascribe positive characteristics to. But prosaic does not relate to mosaic; and it does not have a positive connotation. Prosaic means dull, ordinary, lacking imagination.
This is a prosaic sentence.
Equivocal does not mean equal. It means vague, open to multiple interpretations.
The director’s intent is equivocal: he has said little about the movie, and even viewers have had wildly divergent interpretations.
If somebody is stubborn and will not change his or her views, that person is intransigent.
Despite the exorbitant costs entailed, the mayor remained intransigent regarding the implementation of a new subway system.
For some reason, people often think ambivalent is synonymous with indifferent. This could not be further from the truth. To be ambivalent means to have mixed feelings.
Interestingly, many who’ve taken the GRE are somewhat ambivalent upon finishing: while they are clearly relieved to be done with all the arduous preparation, they miss learning all the interesting words.
Nope, diffident does not relate to different, besides the fact that they are different words. Diffident means shy, lacking confidence.
She was so diffident that even when she knew the answer to a teacher’s question, she would pinch her shoulders together and look down.
Sanguine just doesn’t sound like its definition: cheerfully optimistic. If anything, it sounds like it means pessimistic. As long as you remain sanguine about how well you will do test day, you shouldn’t mix up this word.
She had a low GPA and was not sanguine about her prospects upon graduating from college.
To admonish means to warn beforehand. Imagine a little kid who likes nothing more in the world than his gooey chocolate chip cookies. He has already had a few cookies, and just as he reaches for a fifth, his mother admonishes him: “don’t eat any more, or you’ll feel sick.”
The teacher admonished his students not to try the cram for the 1,000 word vocabulary quiz.
Something that is subtly destructive is insidious. Plaque is insidious. It slowly eats away at your gum line, as you blithely go own consuming chocolate chip cookies (don’t worry – I’m not admonishing you).
The effects of radiation are insidious: only after many years, once a chronic disease surfaces, does a person realize that they have been exposed over the course of their lives.
This word is anything but benign if you go into the test not knowing what it means. To be benign is to be harmless.
Spending five minutes in the sun will have a relatively benign effect on your skin; spending fifteen minutes, on the other hand, can already lead to burning and fine wrinkles.
If someone looks down on you contemptuously, that person is being supercilious. For instance, if you roll into a five-star restaurant in Manhattan wearing jeans and t-shirt, the maître d’ is likely to give you a supercilious look.
The travel writer’s supercilious tone towards others he met on his cross-country trip endeared him to those with a misanthropic bent.
To make something less bad is to mitigate it. You can mitigate your hunger by eating. You can mitigate poverty by donating to charitable causes.
His self-serving excuses did little to mitigate the resentment students felt after he had been caught stealing their homework notes.
To engender is to give rise to something. This something could be your feelings, a situation, or a general state of affairs.
Few issues engendered as much controversy as the visiting delegates comments regarding the government’s hospitality.