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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Vocabu’L’ary Weds.

‘L’ has always held a special place in my heart. After all, my last name begins with ‘l’, a letter recapitulated a mere phoneme later (‘Le’- ‘le’). ‘L’ is also a ripe place to go hunting for GRE words. Behold the lexical morsels (another ‘l’ word!) below. I’ve also incorporated different ‘l’evels, each word harder than the next.



Most companies have a monthly meeting or event in which stellar employees are praised. The head honcho will have the employee stand up and he/she will laud that employee, describing why that employee is so great. Laud is reserved for high praise; you wouldn’t laud somebody for getting an ‘A’ in class. But you laud somebody who get’s a 4.0 by putting them on the Dean’s List.



Think of nasty bruise, swollen an angry dull purple. The traditional use of the word describes this very color. Now think how you’d feel if somebody dropped a 20-pound weight on your foot—furiously angry. That’s the second meaning of livid: furious anger (though there doesn’t have to be any bruising involved.)



It’s been a long, long day—and you barely even slept the night before. When you get up from your seat it is not with some pep in your step, but with lassitude; you are fatigued and weary. Every time I go to an Indian buffet I not only invariably overeat but also end my meal with a delicious—but calorically dense—mango lassi, a beverage made from buttermilk. Afterwards, I can barely move, overcome with extreme mango ‘lassi’tude.



Just as ‘livid’ did not relate to ‘lived’ so too is ‘limpid’ not some archaic past tense of limped. It does, however, describe writing that is very clear and easy to understand. The GRE will usually use ‘limpid’ in the context of some author making a really difficult field—say subatomic physics—easy to understand.

Instead of limping along, the reader will skim through this limpid work on astrophysics, many thorny concepts unraveled with writerly aplomb.  



From the French of “light of hand”, legerdemain can describe a magician whipping a rabbit from a hat. However, it can also mean clever deception. A politician who has been implicated in a scandal yet can turn it to his advantage wields expert legerdemain (I’m thinking of Frank Underwood from Netflix’s acclaimed House of Cards).



Now, we’re getting tough, at the very edge of what constitutes a valid GRE word and overly technical words. One good metric I use to avoid picking overly obscure words is the New York Times. I’ll enter the word in to the search box and count how many times a word has shown up in the last 10 years. If a word shows up only three or four times in the course of 10 years, I won’t include it in Vocab Wednesday (nor will the GRE, most likely, include it either). ‘Labile’ has shown up twice in this year alone—so fair game.

So what does ‘labile’ mean? Easily altered or changeable. Many of the higher-numbered elements on the periodic table are labile, existing for only a few nanoseconds before disappearing. ‘Labile’ can also describe emotions or emotional states that change abruptly.

The veteran actress, hoping to showcase her vast talents, favored roles with highly labile characters, reflecting their suddenly shifting moods with thespian flair. 


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9 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Vocabu’L’ary Weds.

  1. Mireille October 14, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    …it took me a while, indeed, but I finally had my epiphany! 😀 How about a set of words from the Economist world — all this turmoil we’ve all been going through for the past decade or so must have left some sort of scratches on our dictionary’s pages… I don’t know, something like ‘defaulting’, ‘deficit, ‘Prime Rate’, ‘treasury Index’, repossessing’ — something.

    After all, I’m thinking GRE might also wanna test that we do live in this specific world, that we’re not complete aliens! 😀 Just a thought… plus, you do have us read The Economist among others, don’t you? 🙂

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 15, 2014 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Mireille,

      That sounds like a good idea :). Some of the words you mentioned may be a tad too economics based. But I’m sure there are many other GRE-related ones that I could find.

      Stay tuned!

      • Mireille October 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

        …definitely! 🙂 I only enumerated a few terms, just to give you an idea of what I meant… I doubt ETS will have us make assumptions on the prime rate’s fluctuation in the near future! 🙂 Anyway, I have a feeling you’ll come up with words more like “underwater”, for instance. 😉 Don’t they love these words with secondary meanings? OK then, I’ll definitely keep an eye out — can’t wait to see what you come up with! 🙂

  2. SDx August 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I want to follow up on the word “labile”.
    Does it mean the transfiguration of X to Y, or emotional (mood) changes from X to Y, or both?
    Also, what would some good synonyms be?


    Appreciate the help!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 15, 2014 at 11:50 am #

      So in chemistry the first definition would work: changing one substance to another.

      Outside of chemistry, labile only pertains to emotions. I think mercurial is a good synonym. Hope that helps 🙂

  3. Neelam Rup Prakash August 13, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Hi Chris,
    Ironically, in India lassi is a refeshment drink :). Good to know, you like lassi.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

      That’s true! I think the key is not drinking anything on a completely full stomach, or it’s lassitude time 🙂

      • Praveen Kalra August 13, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

        Cannot agree more (y), the last time, I had lassi it was so heavy that I was overcome by lassitude.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele August 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

          I’m glad to see I’m not the only one 🙂

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