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GRE Vocab Wednesday: More Difficult Words

For this batch, I took out my GRE magnifying glass and hunted for some more rarefied specimens—words that are difficult but don’t usually show up on word lists. I loosely arranged the words from difficult to very difficult. So if you’ve never seen the last couple of words, no worries. You are not alone.



Oblivious to the effect he was having on his dinner guests, Steven rhapsodized about his summer trip to the French Riviera; only when two of the guests visibly yawn did he realize that not everybody might be as smitten with the idea of $200 bottles of wine while celebrity spotting.

This is a word people feel they should probably be able to define on the spot. However, the definition and use of this word eludes many, perhaps because the definition isn’t quite what we expect. We might think Bohemian Rhapsody (the Queen song) or Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and come to the conclusion that the word has to do with music. That is not entirely off, since that is one definition of the word and the definition we are looking for here is related to that definition.

A rhapsody is a work of music characterized by free expression and form. To rhapsodize about something is to speak about it with unrestrained enthusiasm. When I ask my colleague Mike to talk about the New York Mets, his favorite baseball team, he will rhapsodize for hours about a game he saw decades ago. Get me into a conversation on words and I’m likely to rhapsodize about the English language. And as a fan of classical music, I’ll definitely rhapsodize about Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.


The villain in the latest T.V. show was so dastardly, so over the top in his vileness, that he ceased to be interesting and became merely cartoonish.

We’ve likely encountered this word since it is often paired with “deeds”. From context, we usually get a sense that these deeds are not very good. But what exactly does dastardly mean?

Well, you can be a mere bad guy and do the bidding of some overlord. Dastardly probably won’t describe you, but it typically fits the overlord. I think of Lord Voldemort, the Emperor from the Star Wars movies, or the Wicked Witch of the West. You are cruel and wicked for the sake of being cruel and wicked.


Food critics, who were once known for their asperity, imbuing even a pleasant dining experience with a note of sarcasm (if only the staff was half remarkable as the fare), have been supplanted by the neighbor next door gushing online about how great the eats at the triple Asian fusion restaurant.

Asperity is a harshness of tone. Perhaps you’ve had a boss who always talked down to his or her underlings. Employees likely scurried about the hallways to avoid having to deal with the boss’s asperity.


The famous baritone always surprised fans on the street when he responded to them in a squeak register rather than in a stentorian voice.

Stentorian is a pretty limited word. It describes a voice that is resonant and booming. A person with a stentorian voice is likely to be hard in an adjacent room.


Charles was let go from his job not because he had a poor work ethic but because he was so froward, always questioning the boss’s decisions and even quibbling over whether the office water cooler should have a safety lock on the hot tap.

Nope, it’s not forward misspelled. Anybody who goes out of his or her way to be difficult or to argue with everything you say, just to argue, is froward.


Blake had enough of Victorian novels claiming, “The fustian colloquy of the characters has corrupted my own parlance”.

Fustian is pretentious speech or writing. Imagine if you were so serious about GRE prep that you resolved to use GRE words in every sentence you used. Your friends could rightly accuse of indulging in fustian, assuming you define the word for them first.


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2 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: More Difficult Words

  1. Shubham March 4, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    Hey Chris! A Huge thanks for the GRE article of the month! Loved it and it helped me a lot to improve my score. Scored a 326 overall 168Q 158V. Want to ask you whether it is good enough score for MBA in top universities like harvard and stanford.Also as you have always stressed its not just the gre scores that matter , I got a 9.85/10 Gpa in my undergraduate studies.Awaiting your response. ☺

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 7, 2016 at 10:38 am #

      Hi Shubham,

      Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly as much expertise and experience in graduate school admissions as we do with GRE prep, so I’m afraid we can’t be of much help. Here are a few blog posts to help you evaluate your scores:

      What is a Good GRE Score?
      GRE Scores Infographic
      GRE Scores for Top Universities
      GRE Scores by Program Major

      Additionally, I’d recommend directly contacting the schools/programs you’re interested in to see if they can offer any insight, or check out the programs’ websites to see if they have any info! This website is also a great place to start your research:

      Best Grad Schools

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