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GRE Vocab Wednesday: A Formidable Farrago


A farrago is a confusing jumble of something. Formidable (described in more detail below) means causing inspiring awe or fear. These words aren’t easy, so I’m guessing they’ll be quite formidable.


As I mentioned above, if something is formidable it is big and scary. Let’s talk tests. Both the GMAT and GRE are pretty formidable. Both take many hours to complete and have convoluted, challenging questions. The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle is formidable. Some of the questions on Jeopardy are quite formidable (or maybe it’s just Alex Trebek’s demeanor).


You’re studying for the GRE? Here, take this vocab list; it has 6,000 words. And here are seventeen different books. Did I mention my study notes?

The hypothetical person above, in addition to having too much GRE stuff, is trying to foist it upon somebody. To foist means to impose something on somebody—something that someone might not even want. I’m guessing you probably don’t want a 6,000-word vocabulary list. In fact, I’d highly recommend against it—that’s too many words!


This word shouldn’t be too difficult to memorize, since it the first two syllables—phonetically, at least—are the definition: to obey. An obeisance is a gesture or act signaling respect. In the West, a curtsy or bow suffices. In ancient China, subjects would show obeisance by touching their forehead to the ground. This act of obeisance actually has its own word: kowtow.


You may have felt unwanted at some point in your life. But have you felt unwonted? Well, you can’t really feel unwonted, since it describes an action that means not typical or customary. Perhaps using GRE words in everyday conversation would be unwonted for you. But who says you can’t start now? Well, be careful whom you foist your newfound lexicon on—you don’t want to end up unwanted.


Two areas that share the same space are coterminous. The southern extreme of Canada is coterminous with the northern extreme of the United States. There is a more subtle definition of the word, one that has a far wider-reaching application than geography. If two things are coterminous, they are equal or proportionate in effect or extent.

Some of argued that both Lincoln’s assassination and JFK’s assassination are coterminous in the extent to which they changed the political climate of the times, and ultimately the course of history.


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