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GRE Vocabulary: Negative Words (People You Wouldn’t Want to Meet!)


Not to be confused with a doll dangled on strings (that’s a marionette) a martinet is a person who is a strict disciplinarian. Think of a drill sergeant who barks an order and a platoon of cadets jump to attention – the slightest misstep and its toilet duty.   If anything, the martinet is the one holding the strings.

This military example is no coincidence – martinet is an eponym, meaning a word derived from a person’s name. The guilty party in this case is the 17th Century French drillmaster Jean Martinet.



Probably one of my favorite GRE words – it’s great for describing certain folk and it’s fun to say. A curmudgeon is a grouchy, surly person, one who is always sulking as they grumble about something or another.



You thought a curmudgeon was bad? A misanthrope – or hater of mankind – walks down the street spewing vitriol at all those who walk by. College campuses are famous for misanthropes, those disheveled types who haunt coffee shops, muttering balefully as students pass by. Some say they are homeless – others that they didn’t get tenure. Regardless, steer clear of the misanthrope.



This word comes from reprove, a popular GRE word, which means  (nope, not to prove again) to express disapproval of. A reprobate is a noun and is the recipient of the disapproval.

Reprobate is a mildly humorous word, meaning that you would use it to describe some no good soul, but one you have a fondness for.

Those old reprobates drinking all day down by the river –they are not going to amount to much.



This word has a real cool origin – the vir- comes from the Latin man. Virago, however, was coined during the medieval period to describe heroic female warriors. Today virago does not have such a noble connotation – it describes an ill-tempered and sometimes violent woman. If you’ve ever had an old lady scream at you for no good reason, then you’ve had an encounter with a virago.

As the virago unleashed a tirade upon the misanthrope, the latter shook his head contemptuously muttering, “you are all that is wrong with the world.”


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4 Responses to GRE Vocabulary: Negative Words (People You Wouldn’t Want to Meet!)

  1. Katie June 5, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    your example of misanthropes definitely takes me back to my time at Cal – tons of ’em everywhere! (go bears!)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

      We (Magoosh) are located in Berkeley…hmmm, I wonder if my surroundings in any way inspired that example sentence :).

  2. vaisnavi February 22, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    Xantippe, Beldam, Harridan,Termagant, Jezebel can be some other synonymous words for Virago.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris February 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

      Wow, you stumped me :). I’ve never seen beldam before (I thought you’d misspelt ‘bedlam’).

      Anyhow, the rest are good words, though I am afraid a few are perhaps too obscure to show up on the Revised GRE. Xanthippe – from Socrates ceaselessly berating “better” half, while good for the $2000 Jeopardy clue probably won’t pop in the verbal section.

      Also, jezebel is a shameless woman who lacks morals. Not quite the same as the others.

      Thanks though for the words :).

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