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GRE Vocabulary – Don’t Be So Emotional!

Many words on the GRE pertain to a certain emotion. I would really being casting a wide net if I focused on those words. Instead, I’m going to narrow the scope a bit and focus on words that are related to an outward display of an emotion, typically sadness.



Emotive differs slightly from emotion and describes anything that causes intense emotions. Violent images, poignant movies, and a masterful novel are all emotive. It is important not to describe people as emotive. Rather something that is emotive causes an intense emotional reaction in others.



This word does not mean demonstrate in the strict sense. It does mean to demonstrate one’s emotions outwardly. Certain cultures—as you may well know if you have ever been to Italy—are renowned for their demonstrativeness, hugging one another with gusto and gesticulating animatedly at every turn of phrase.



Those who cry during Hallmark commercials; the sobbing teen at Titanic 3-D, box of tissues in trembling hand; the forlorn housewife weeping lugubriously when one of her favorite daytime soap stars perishes; those who cry during Hallmark commercials are mawkish. In other words, they are so sentimental that they arouse disgust in others.



If somebody is too expressive in his/her positive emotions, he/she is being effusive. Effusive often implies insincerity.

She praised him effusively for his performance of the Rachmaninov concerto, though on the inside she was a little envious, realizing she would never be able to play such a difficult piece.



If you combine demonstrative and mawkish, you are close to the word ‘lugubrious.’ Someone crying in public, declaiming his/her woes is behaving lugubriously. Any overblown, theatrical display of sadness is lugubrious.



Pathos is a quality that evokes sadness. A piece of music that brings a tear to your eye, an actor whose expressions make the audience feel his sadness, or a melancholic poem are all imbued with pathos.

She injected a note of pathos into her excuse, yet I could not help but think she was acting disingenuously—hoping to elicit pity, while hiding her true intentions.


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4 Responses to GRE Vocabulary – Don’t Be So Emotional!

  1. shakhawat March 15, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Hello chris,

    Can you please tell me the exact meaning of CONDESCEND? what is your comment on the book “verbal workout for new gre ” 4th edition by princeton review

    Do you have any plan on starting a new package only for practice tests?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 15, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      To condescend means to talk down to someone. To talk down to someone means to treat them in a way that you think you are clearly better than they are.

      “The geography junkie turned to his fellow six-grade students and condescendingly said, “Don’t you know, Sydney is not the capital of Australia – that would be Canberra.”

      I hope that helps 🙂

      As for the book, I’m ordering that now :). (I haven’t reviewed it yet).

      For your final question, we don’t have a package just for the tests. Our hope is that students use us also for our excellent lesson videos and not just as a question bank. We want to make sure that all students who use Magoosh have access to the “Magoosh way” :).

  2. Eric March 14, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Hi Chris,

    First and foremost, I’d like to say how incredibly appreciative I am for Magoosh. Your free advice on this blog is super generous. Additionally, I loved my free trial, but since I’m still over a year out from taking the GRE it doesn’t make much sense for me to purchase a plan quite yet. I will as soon as it does, though.

    Anyway, I know your recommendations with regard to studying for the GRE Verbal section focus primarily on reading and learning words in context. I love this approach. I’ve been an avid reader of The New Yorker for a while and adding The Atlantic to my reading list has been great. I’m also having a great time with the “Best American” series. But I do like studying traditional vocab lists, as well. Moreover, various aspects of my schedule facilitate studying vocab lists in short bursts on my phone. I’ve already come across many words in my reading that I wouldn’t have understood right away without studying a vocab list — “nascent” and “cloistered” come immediately to mind.

    I’m wondering if there’s a particular GRE vocab list that you would recommend. In the past have you found one to be more useful or more representative of actual tests than others? Should I pick from a variety of sources like you advocate for general GRE studying? Have you addressed this in a previous blog post that I overlooked? Right now I’m going through ~800 Barron’s words and I feel like it’s fine, but if my time would be better spent elsewhere, I’d definitely like to know.

    Thanks and keep up the awesome work. So many of us out here are truly appreciative of everything you’re doing.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for the message :). Good to hear that reading in context has been working out for you (and that you’ve added the excellent Atlantic to your reading schedule). I agree – only learning words from context limits exposure to word lists, which are a great concentrated source of GRE vocabulary.

      As you probably well know, some word lists are better than others. Any word list that provides several example sentences (such as Princeton Review’s Word Smart) is much better than a list that provides only a vague definition (like Barron’s 3500 list). Another great list is Barron’s 1100 words, which is a word list combined with a vocabulary workbook.

      To go back to your original question: use a variety of word lists, as long as they are engaging, clear, and give you a strong sense of how the word functions in context ( those that leave ‘contrive’ at to create/bring about are best avoided).

      The closest I’ve come to a post on word lists is the following:

      Perhaps one thing I’d add is stay away from the massive word posts–the greater the number of words the lower the overall quality. Pooling together Word Smart, the Barron’s 800, and another list will be the most effective use of your vocab study time.

      Hope that helps, and good luck :)!

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