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GRE Vocab Wednesdays: Words, Both Young and Old

The words below are taken from before the moment we are born till the last white hair has fallen. Indeed, some supersede the lifespan, spanning the millennia.



When momma bird goes looking for grub, the baby birds perforce stay behind. These little guys—featherless, beaks turned skywards waiting for manna—are called fledglings.

In the land of the GRE, far from worms and feathers, fledgling means anyone or anything that is young and inexperienced.

At the turn of the century, epidemiology was a fledgling field, it’s practitioners having very little idea of how disease spreads from person to person.



Young and immature? Well, if you don’t like the pejorative ring of those words, you can call yourself callow. Nonetheless, callow is hardly a positive word—it connotes lack of experience and general greenhorn attitude to life.

Living under the roof of an authoritarian father, Manny knew little of the world, so when he went off to college most of his peers found him callow.



Whining like a five-year-old? Throwing a fit? Or just engaging in shenanigans befitting someone half a century younger than you? Well, you are being puerile, which means to act in silly, childish manner.

At the office the company president wore a mask befitting Draco; at home, he sloughed his martinet’s skin for the buffoon, and would behave puerilely when his wife asked him to take out the garbage, sometimes putting his fingers in both ears and screaming, “I can’t hear you.”



An embryo is the very first stage of existence. Thus it shouldn’t be too surprising that ‘embryonic’ is used to describe anything that is in it’s beginning, or nascent, stage.

As far as audio devices go, the tape cassette seems downright embryonic compared to the likes of the iPod.



While this word does not exactly mean old, it is associated with those who are older and have acquired wisdom. ‘Sagacious’ is related to sage—an old wise man—and means wise.

After leading the high school team to twenty years of winning seasons, the coach radiated an aura of sagacity, his every word attended to as though he were Moses atop Mt. Sinai.



Uh…it’s not what you think. Hoary means ancient to the point of inspiring veneration. Hoary can also mean covered with grey hairs.

Besides sheer intellectual horsepower and years of relevant experience, the typical Supreme Court Justice is one we think of as some hoary figure, sagaciously interpreting the law and handing down verdicts of irrevocable force.



The final word, and a daunting one at that, ‘antediluvian’ is by no means a high-frequency GRE word. What it lacks in GRE frequency it makes up for in sheer panache (it was the winning word in one of the National Spelling Bees).

‘Antediluvian’ literally means before the flood, as in the Biblical flood where some dude named Noah gathered all the animals and built an ark. Today, thousands of years hence, ‘antediluvian’ is just a comical way of saying very, very old.

After just a few years reading books on his e-reader, Harold finds books—their dusty spines and frayed edges—antediluvian encumbrances, relics of a distant past.


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4 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesdays: Words, Both Young and Old

  1. karti January 18, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    Hey Chris,
    Shouldn’t that be young and inexperienced in the definition of fledgling,just a doubt.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris January 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      Yes :).

      Thanks for catching that! I’d hate to give the impression that my vocabulary is fledgling :).

  2. Kush January 16, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    hey Chris, thanks for these sessions, they are really helpful!
    Is it so that the we’ve to be strict and pedantic with GRE vocab or a general context would do the job?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris January 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      Hi Kush,

      Good question! I think getting a general sense of the word, i.e., callow = immature, and get a feel for how it’s used in context is much better than knowing that callow means inexperienced and naive, but with a more negative connotation than either words, and is typically used to describe youth.

      That deep/pedantic understanding of a word is important if you want to become a professional writer, not for success on the GRE :).

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