We have this great, free flashcard app that let’s you learn a thousand of the most important GRE words. One cool feature is we can collect data on how many students know a word, and don’t know a word (don’t worry, we’re not the NSA — we don’t know your credit card numbers or what you did last summer).
What we found is some words many students know. For instance, approximately 52% of students, without any prompting, knew the definition to the word elaborate, the “easiest” word of the 1,000. At the other extreme, venality and recondite registered a 2.75 and a 4.25, respectively. (If you know the meaning of recondite, which you’ll otherwise learn in a moment, it’s particularly apt that it is one of the most difficult words).
Apparently the most difficult word on the list, you would learn the definition very quickly if you were charged with venality — not that this would necessarily happen. But let’s say you decide to ask your M.I.T.-bound cousin, who bears a striking resemblance to you, to take the GRE in your stead. You throw in a 1,000 dollars and on test day, he/she emerges from the testing center with a perfect score.
Later, though, an investigation determines that your cousin pretended to be you (the perfect score was a little suspicious!). Both of you will be implicated on charges of venality: you paid him to do something illegal and he willingly obliged. Now let’s say you happen to be really loaded and you bribe the investigation team to not implicate you. If they accept, the circle of venality has widened (though, if anything, such bare-faced venality will likely lead to a longer prison sentence).
Even if you had to take a stab at this word, you’d probably be pretty far off. The fact that 97% of students had no idea what this word means shows that this word is both rare and misleading. To prevaricate has nothing to do with varying, but has everything to do with straying from the truth. Specifically, prevaricate means to avoid telling the truth, something you might try to do if you busted for venality, as usually happens with politicians.
If you haven’t seen much of the world and have stayed in the same place much of your life, your views are likely to be parochial. Narrow-minded, without a sense of the way the world works, a person with parochial views will often come across as naïve – or worse – bigoted. Clearly a negative word, don’t call somebody parochial unless you want to insult them.
A simple way to say calumny is slander. That’s right, no need to give this word much more space. Calumny = Slander.
Non-Euclidean in the 4th dimension, 10th century cosmogony, the formation of metamorphic rocks, and indeed the word recondite itself are all examples of recondite fields of knowledge (though I guess I wouldn’t quite call the word “recondite” a field of knowledge).
If you haven’t guessed, recondite means known to only a select few people and typically difficult and complex. Once you are done with GRE prep, you’ll be able to claim a recondite field of knowledge: GRE vocabulary.
Profligate sounds like a positive word, but don’t let the “pro-“ fool you. The word comes from an Old Latin word meaning ruin. Specifically, if you are profligate you totally squander your resources, whether finances or something in the environment (drought-torn regions cannot be profligate with water intake).
Profligate can also mean licentious/dissolute. These two words describe a lifestyle, like that of the Rolling Stones, filled with utter decadence: nonstop partying and the substance abuse that entails.