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GRE Voc”A”bulary Wednesday

Interestingly, in all the by-the-letter Vocab Wednesdays I’ve done, the first letter of the alphabet has never gotten any limelight—until now. Here are just a few of the many a-words that show up on the test. This time around I’ve done something a little differently: I’m arranged words both to how high-frequency they are on the test and how common they are. The toughest, least common word is at the bottom.



If you are watching a modern take on Romeo and Juliet and Romeo whips out his phone and says, “Yo man, I just got a text from Juliet”, then you have witnessed an anachronism, as well as an unfortunate bastardization of the bard. A horse drawn carriage down 5th avenue? Yep, also an anachronism. An anachronism, then, is anything is wildly out of place in terms of time. The two examples above are pretty jarring as far as anachronisms go. A VHS player or even a CD player in the modern home would both be anachronisms—though, admittedly, they would be quite jarring for anyone under the age of 20.



To attenuate is to reduce in effect or intensity. At the end of class, your attention has probably become attenuated. Anger typically attenuates with time—and good chocolate. Hopefully, the Ebola virus will attenuate some time soon, and disappear all together. You can see the context for this word is pretty vast. Hopefully your memory of it won’t attenuate fast.



How apt would it be if there were a synonym for apt that had those exact letters, and a few more to bloat it up a little? Well, very fittingly such a word exists: apposite. It almost like a word accordion that expands as you manipulate it but remains the same.

For GRE purposes, apposite is the word you should know (it’s come up in practice question). First off, it is not as easy as apt, and secondly some might be apt (second definition) to confuse it with the word opposite. And the GRE preys off of confusion. Speaking of which, I think it would be most apposite if I give you a nice tidy definition: suitable to the occasion or circumstances, apt.



From the Latin for “shade” or “to cast a shadow”, adumbrate is a difficult word that casts it’s shadow over a few denotations. To adumbrate can mean to outline (The CDC has adumbrated steps to combat Ebola). It can also mean to indicate faintly (the few shattered storefronts adumbrated the full-fledged riots that would erupt later that year). It can also mean to foreshadow (through the final season, the television show Mad Men has adumbrated the demise of protagonist Don Draper).



The toughie in this batch, adventitious isn’t too likely to show up on the GRE. Based on chance, adventitious implies that something happens accidentally; it’s not the essential part of something. Of course, if adventitious does show up on the GRE, that is not so much adventitious as the test writers looking for a misleading word (it kind of sounds like advantageous). Interestingly, there is another ‘a’ word that means random, aleatoric (aleatory is the noun). But that word is far too obscure to ever show up on the GRE.


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5 Responses to GRE Voc”A”bulary Wednesday

  1. Sydney Videographer November 13, 2015 at 6:01 pm #

    You should be a part of a contest for one
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    • Dani Lichliter
      Dani Lichliter November 16, 2015 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks, Sydney! We’re glad to hear you find our blog useful! 🙂

  2. Sima Dhaliwal September 18, 2014 at 2:59 am #

    Hey Chris,
    I have been ardently following your blog posts for the past year or so. My favorite top 5 word groups are the V for Vendetta words, Eponyms, French Words, Pirate Words and Halloween Words (Guess what, chimera appeared on my GRE).
    I just have a small request, can you please write a Sherlock post, just like you did a Game of Thrones post.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 18, 2014 at 10:28 am #

      Wow, thanks for the kudos! That’s great to hear that you have a top 5 :). I think the V for Vendetta post is my favorite :).

      I would love to do a Sherlock post! Speaking of which, I’d been toying these last few weeks with starting the television show. Now, I’ve got a clear impetus. I’m guessing I should have that post up in a few weeks 🙂

      • Sima Dhaliwal September 19, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

        That would be great!! Thank You

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