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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Can You Guess the Theme?

You are probably thinking, words that end in ‘-ious’. That must be the theme. But notice that last word—it crashes the party. Alas, there is a slightly subtler connection to the five words. And no, saying words that can show up on the GRE doesn’t count.

I’ll let the theme out of the bag at the end.


Imagine standing on top of a sloping roof, a mere six inches of width for your one foot to grab on to. That’s right: you are standing on one foot. Your position? A precarious one. Anything that is not securely in place or is likely to fall or collapse is in a precarious situation. Such a collapse can sometimes be metaphorical. Some argue that, with too much government spending, our economy will be precariously perched on the edge of financial ruin. Hopefully, we will not find ourselves in such a precarious situation come 2015.


A temetum was any ‘strong drink’, meaning three tenetums and the room spinning and you are laughing at your own jokes. Abstemious combines the word abstain with temetum, but has a slightly broader application: to not overly indulge in food or drink is to be abstemious. During the holidays, I am anything but abstemious and overindulge whenever I can (though I try to stay away from temetum).


Cracking a joke during a serious moment is the heart of being facetious. A facetious person isn’t oblivious to this fact, but is intentionally trying to bring levity. Common synonyms include irreverent. That said, the GRE is a serious test and you will want to do your best test day—doing a couple shots of temetum beforehand is not a good idea (that last bit was my attempt at being facetious).


All good action flicks have an antagonist, an adversary that the hero must defeat. For us to really root for the hero, it helps if this villain is really, really bad. Merciless killing, taking a relish in that deed, offing some good guys—all make for a nefarious, or dastardly wicked, villain. Famous villains include the Joker, Hannibal Lecter and that guy with the weird hairdo from No Country for Old Men. Perhaps in homage to this long list, the creators of Despicable Me made one of the main bad guys Dr. Nefario.


A fancy way of saying deceitful, this word has long plagued takers of both the SAT and GRE. Apparently, the test writers like it. Does it say something about them? Well, I wouldn’t want to draw any such conclusion, but you can be sure that a person who is mendacious is lying and deceitful.


Okay, the big scary looking word does not follow the –ious pattern. So what’s the common link? Each word contains all five English vowels. As for gubernatorial, it is not a very common vocabulary word, at least as far as answer choices go, but I have seen the test writers slip it into a sentence. It comes from the Latin gubernator, which means governor. So anything relating to the government at the state level (and I think this mainly pertains to the US) is captured by the word gubernatorial.

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3 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Can You Guess the Theme?

  1. Mireille January 24, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    …oh noooo… you did say it already — the 5 vowels… but you must admit my interpretation has a little more action and steam in it! :))

  2. Mireille January 23, 2015 at 8:31 am #

    …hmmm…let me try reading into this coffee cup 😀 …politicians being corrupt, therefore nefarious, as well as greedy, therefore non-abstemious and not truthful, therefore mendacious, ultimately dragging us all down with them to an uncertain / precarious future?! Therefore, the theme being… Cause & Effect?! 🙂

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele January 23, 2015 at 10:55 am #

      Great course of reasoning–just from one cup of coffee 😉

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