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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Words of the Day

I’m not sure if has an algorithm it uses to choose words. Nor, assuming they have one, do I know how it works. What I do know is they choose words from across the spectrum. A word that a 6th grader might now is followed up the next day by a word so obscure that there is one person in the state of Delaware who knows the definition.

For this reason, I always discourage anyone from memorizing words as part of GRE prep. That said, there are some GRE-appropriate words spread over the months. For this vocabulary Wednesday I’ve picked a few such words, organized from most likely (easiest) to least likely (hardest) to show up on the test.



For all his talk about brevity of expression, Johnson isn’t immune to bouts of verbosity, simple sentences often being drawn out to the point that they interrupt the flow.

Think of brevity as the noun form of brief, the adjective. In honor of brevity, I’ll keep this brief.



To palliate the increase mistrust of votes, the candidate assured them that he was indeed fit for office, regardless of what his adversaries claimed.

Palliate means to soften or lessen the extent of something bad. We typically see this word used in one of three contexts: to alleviate pain; to allay suspicions or doubt; and to cover up the negative aspect of something.

1. Drugs meant to palliate the effects of surgery has made it more likely that a patient will opt for such a procedure in the first place.

2. See example sentence.

3. To palliate his constant manipulation of city voters, the mayor would often build new shopping malls.



Both political parties are guilty of intransigence; indeed, their inability to budge even an iota on their positions has led to significant gridlock on policy making.

To not change your view on something is to be intransigent. So if you stick to your position, not giving up even a single inch, you are intransigent. Most of us are intransigent about something. I have a friend, for instance, who is pretty much a go with the flow kind of guy. But when it comes to buying organic fruit he is intransigent.



Patrick, despite all his earnings, liked living in a compact home, saying that a commodious living space made him feel small and unimportant.

Commodious is a fancy way of saying large and roomy. A medieval castle is commodious, though might be lacking some creature comforts. Modern shopping malls, which often cover tens of acres, are commodious, their vaulted ceilings imparting a numinous air on the otherwise pedestrian happenings below.



Born in a tropical climate, Sam didn’t take well to Alaska; during the long winters he would wear a saturnine expression and stare out the window, muttering “I miss summer”.

Apparently, lead poisoning lends its victims a constant sullen look. It is from this unfortunate countenance that astrologers and alchemists made the connection with the planet Saturn, which is associated with lead.



Still hoping for a renascence, Harry hasn’t stopped wearing bell-bottoms.

To be renascent is to come back into fashion again. These days what’s renascent: V-neck sweaters (or maybe that’s what people have been buying come Christmas), minimalist sneakers, and pastels. Of course, for something to be renascent it doesn’t have to relate to fashion. Who knows maybe disco music will become renascent (then Harry won’t be the only one wearing those pants).


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