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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Homophones

A homophone is a word that sounds like another word but has a completely different meaning, though it isn’t necessarily spelled the same way. Too, two, and to is a classic example. Some of the words below are a bit of a stretch in terms of how closely like another word they sound; others sound no different from another word.



Okay, this isn’t a stretch but if your friend says the pope looked gaudy in his new robes, you shouldn’t be faulted for thinking that the person meant holy. But we are not speaking of “God-dy” but gaudy, which means overly decorative and bright usually in a tacky sense (basically, your friend just insulted the pope and might be subject to anathema). A good way to think of gaudy is flashy like the way rap stars, who like to flaunt their “bling,” are appareled.


This one isn’t just a homophone; it’s a homonym. That means that it doesn’t just sound similar to another word but is spelled the same way. Glaring can describe the sun at high noon in Mesa, Arizona. Or, and here is the meaning that is important for the GRE, glaring can mean highly obvious, especially in a negative sense.

The city’s crime report contained a glaring omission: it failed to mention the high homicide rate.


If you hear the words “a grisly murder”, you might imagine a large black bear and a hapless tourist. This “grisly” lacks the double z’s (and the fur), but it can be just as horrible as a grizzly. A grisly crime is one that evokes disgust because of its violent nature. France in the last 18th century was a grisly scene, I’m sure.


This word does not describe the items in one’s garbage can. It does, however, describe a person’s actions or behavior that are not typical. A bonus word is the word wonted, which means customary or habitual. For instance, my use of example sentences used to be wonted though these days I typically do not use them as often (just to atone, I’ll provide two such examples).

He lashed out at his friends with unwonted cruelty.

The unwonted mirth quickly died down as soon as the boss had returned from his lunch.


Many of us have a cousin (or two). Hopefully, we don’t try to cozen them. The latter means to hoodwink or deceive. So if you walk through Times Square in New York City and somebody tries to sell you a gold watch, well keep your wallet in your pocket since that person is likely trying to cozen you.


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