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GRE Vocab Wednesday:’s “Word of the Day”s

Word of the Day is, as the name would imply, a daily feature on Many of my students prepping for the GRE have asked if the words from this list are useful to know. Many of the words featured are very obscure (irrefrangible, gaumless) or describe something that would never show up as a possible answer choice on the GRE (a polliwog is a tadpole, or a baby frog).

At the same time, about 30% of the words could be GRE words. Below are six such words that have popped up as Word of the Day in the last year.



The literal definition of atavism is a reversion to an ancestral trait. In science, it describes a trait that resurfaces after being absent for a generation or more (perhaps a great-grandfather’s blue eyes appearing in a newborn). More broadly speaking, an atavism is a throwback to an early form of something.

Johnson’s sculptures are atavistic in that they recall the forms employed by West African artisans of the Songhai Empire.



To take back a belief is to recant. One example is the Salem witch trials, during which the accused were forced to recant their belief in the devil and accept that they were witches. Many recanted, even though they didn’t believe in the devil. And many unfortunately were unable to disprove the witch charge and were often killed.



When I go out to restaurant and the food is very good, I usually—to my wife’s chagrin—have something to quibble about. Sure, the food was almost but perfect but perhaps they could have been a little less assertive with the salt (I have quite the fussy palate). To quibble is to make a trivial objection to something.



I am anything but indifferent when it comes to saying this word. The middle syllable takes a languorous journey down the tongue, ending with a lilting sibilance. But for somebody who is insouciant, they couldn’t care less about the way the word sounds. To be insouciant is to be indifferent and blasé. You know, like the average teen, who shrugs off most non-teen related things with a whatever.



This is actually a pretty tough word, and definitely not a high-frequency GRE word. But if you already have a formidable vocabulary, then add this one to your repertoire. Splenetic, which is derived from the spleen (in an etymological sense), means ill-tempered and irritable. Common GRE synonyms include choleric, irascible, bilious, and querulous.


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4 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday:’s “Word of the Day”s

  1. Maria Abbasi May 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Hey Chris!
    Just wanted to let you know what an amazing job all of you are doing. I am all set to take GRE today and that too on a very short notice unfortunately. But your blogs have been an invaluable help to me. Wish I had known sooner about them, but even then can’t complain. Learnt quite a lot of stuff. I love how you ensure the material is absorbed by the reader as easily as possible, without ever becoming onerous!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

      Hi Maria!

      Thanks for the kudos :).

      I am definitely happy to hear that I make GRE learning anything but onerous! Good luck on your test and let me know if you have any last-minute questions.

    • zar August 25, 2016 at 2:13 pm #


      Magoosh…! Great! Awesome! Amazing! Superb! You almost have everything here one needs for test prep. And in a way as if you sincerely want students to understand it completely also help to memorize easily.

      You really care!


    • zar August 25, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

      Hi Maria!

      Please share your test experience. Would really appreciate it.


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