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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Surprising Meanings


At the most basic level, ‘rash’ is an outbreak of nasty looking, red blotches along your skin. After childhood, you may come encounter with another kind of ‘rash’. This one doesn’t afflict the skin, but is an adjective meaning ‘hasty, not thinking about the consequences of one’s actions.

Well, there is yet another rash, a GRE-level word, which relates to the first use of rash—don’t worry this one won’t affect your skin. Any outbreak of an unpleasant occurrence, say crime, robberies, and the like, can represent a rash.

The recent layoffs at the city plant likely triggered the rash of home burglaries; many workers lost their property and had to find some way—licit or not—to provide for their families.  



One can salute, brandish flag. All such flag waving will surely make one tired, but did you know that to flag also means to become tired? Well, the GRE does, so make sure you don’t forget. And if you see ‘unflagging’ on the test, remember that it means not tiring, persistent.

Her unflagging effort during three months of GRE prep, led her to score beyond what she even thought was possible.



An area of skin that is moved from one part of the body to another is called a ‘graft’ (in this sense, ‘graft’ can also function as a verb.) Graft even relates to gardening. However, neither of these uses is important in a GRE sense. Graft, which means corruption and bribery, is the meaning you need to know.

For decades corruption had been rife in the dictatorship, leading some to quip that graft was endemic.



Nope, in the GRE-sense, this word does not relate to the stock market, or even to stock car racing. Stock refers to an idea that is hackneyed, or lacking in originality.

Nielsen ratings suggest that the public’s appetite for tepid melodramas inhabited by stock characters—the jaded mother, the wayward daughter, the aloof father, the goofy son—remains undiminished.



A bridle is a harness used to restrain a horse, or other cud-chomping quadruped. In a more figurative sense, ‘to bridle’ is to restrain. ‘Unbridled’ means unrestrained.

While this is a perfectly valid GRE use of the word, ‘bridle’ can have another meaning, that is totally unrelated to its first meaning. To bridle is to express or show anger, especially by arching one’s head back and puckering in the chin (hmm…as though the person has been given a yank from the horse’s invisible bridle).

Despite years of struggling to making it in a tough economy, the startup’s passion for their idea remained unbridled.

After years of working on his tennis game, Chauncy bridled at the comments from the spectators, some of who compared him to a horse trying to play tennis.

Curry Favor

This does not mean to run off to the supermarket to fetch the cook some spices. ‘Curry favor’ means to act in an ingratiating manner, or in such a way that it is clear that you are desperately trying to win somebody over.

Of course such a phrase just screams for the ol’ etymological treatment. In this case, there is no clean, illuminating backstory to the word’s origin. Rather, both ‘curry’ and the ‘favor’ were 16th century French imports that were apparently misheard by Anglo ears. ‘Curry’ comes from the French conraier, meaning to put in order; ‘favor’ comes from ‘favel’, meaning flatterer. Looks like the English definitely weren’t trying to curry favor with the French.

On Harold’s first day at the work, he tried to curry favor with nearly everyone in the office; there were few who were not congratulated on their snazzy style of dressing.


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2 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Surprising Meanings

  1. Ben January 25, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    🙂 Thanks Christ!! Very helpful. I wish you could do it everyday, haha.
    By the way I really enjoy being a Magoosh premium user, your site offers me tremendous insight on the new GRE, some TC and SE questions are really hard and the connotation of some words are so esoteric. I am glad I have practiced those difficult questions!!!! I actually can’t wait to take the GRE in March!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris January 25, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Thanks so much for the praise, or dare I say ‘panegyric’. :-).

      I’m glad you’ve cracked some of the toughest Magoosh questions. Some are not easy. You’ll definitely be in shape for your March test :). Good luck!

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