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GRE Vocab Wednesday: ‘I’ Words

What does an implacable invasion of ‘I’ words look like? Insidious, iniquitous, invidious, impervious would be a good start. For this week, we will have different ‘I’ words. But in case you missed any of those other words—words that are all high-frequency—an easy way to find them is by using Google. Just enter the terms “Magoosh” and whatever word you are looking for into the search box. If the word has been featured in a Vocab Wed., that post/video is usually the top hit.

All the words below, though, are new words (I know this by using the trick above—which I do every week to make sure I don’t get redundancies).



This word is likely to trick the speed readers out there, who might think they just read the word “impertinent” (a former Vocab Wed. word). Impenitent, though, is made up of the root –im- and the word penitent. To be penitent is to atone, or make right, for past wrongdoings. Impenitent is the opposite. Those who are found guilty of murder and, in light of the verdict, are still impenitent, receive harsher sentences than do those who show remorse.


I love talking about this word, because it’s one of those words in which the definition does little to illuminate the meaning. For instance, here is the definition lifted from New Oxford English Dictionary:

“showing luminous colors that seem to change when seen from different angles.”

That doesn’t sound much different from an acid trip.

Now, imagine you are walking by a puddle of oil, and there is this rainbow-like hue that shifts as you walk past the puddle. That is iridescence. No need for LSD.


From the noun ignominy, this is a word that has taken on a new life in the age of youtube and twitter. Before, public shame and disgrace (the definition of ignominy) was limited to a few incriminating photos or choice words from a columnist. Now, we can witness celebrities’ drunken shenanigans, frame by frame.

Given the constant specter of ignominy lurking, most famous people, I imagine, probably tip toe about or, if they’re feeling the implacable pull of their imps, don ‘V’ masks. That, or they face the scorn of the public for their ignominious behavior. Justin Bieber, anyone?


This is the flipside of the oft-used word “notorious”, which describes one who is known for something negative. An illustrious person is known only positively. The illustrious singer Bono (pre-2000); the illustrious Lance Armstrong (pre-2010); the illustrious Bill Gates (still going strong) come to mind as those who are famous—or at least once were—for positive reasons.


When I like certain musical artists, I’ll compliment them for their talent and leave it at that. Others are far more idolatrous, treating their musical act like demigods (Notice the word ‘idol’ at the beginning). Once more, I’ll recycle the baby-faced Canadian crooner (yes, I’m talking about the epicene Bieber), whose fans bounce up and down like rodents on amphetamines, their faces wearing a look of rapture rarely found outside religious circles. Of course that same idolatrous behavior was seen when the Beatles “invaded” the U.S. over fifty years ago.

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