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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Tough ‘S’ Words

These are words are not too likely to show up, compared to the other words that I’ve gone over and there are other things to do beyond vocabulary building to improve your GRE verbal scores. So I’d recommend learning them only if your vocabulary is already learned the words from most of the GRE lists out there and figured it wouldn’t hurt to augment your already bulging lexicon.


The first week of college dragged on for Sammy, who quickly grew tired to the endless salutatories: he groused to his friend, “How many more speakers do we need to say hello?”

This sounds like salutary, which is an important GRE word (it means improving or bestowing beneficial effects upon). Salutatory is the opposite of valedictory, which means serving as a farewell (think of a valedictorian’s speech—they give the farewell to the class). So a salutatory address would be something like: “welcome, and greetings, to this week’s Vocabulary Wednesday!”


Felix surrounded himself with quiet mediocrity and by dint of contrast came across as a scintillating mind.

Flashing and sparkling, and I’m not just talking about rhinestones. I’m talking a lively, sharp intellect, one which outshines—and out-sparkles—all the others around it. You can have scintillating mind (Stephen Hawking), a scintillating wit (Jon Stewart), or scintillating lexical abilities.


Henry wore the same shoes till his toes winked through the fronts—such a skinflint was he.

People used to start fire with a stone. I know, seems very antediluvian. But if you are ever stranded in the wilderness you might just need to learn how. First, you’ll need a flint rock. Then, you’ll want to rub it up against another rock. After a couple of goes that should light the way. If you decide to hold on the rock and reuse it many times, never investing in a new flint rock, you are a skinflint, at least in the old definition. Today, a skinflint describes anyone who is a miser.


Seven years living in the downtown area had made Chris an inveterate insomniac; that changed when he moved to the suburbs, the susurrus of leaves and a small stream greeting him every morning.

A light wind playing through the leaves of an elm; a brook wending through a creek bed; a mothering whispering a newborn to sleep—all are susurrant: they make a soft rustling sound. This shouldn’t be surprising since the word comes from the Latin for to hum or murmur. And it is faintly onomatopoeic. Repeat the word a few times softly; you might just hear a sound similar to when you put a seashell to your ear.


An octogenarian rock star, Dudley was keenly aware of his senescence but was not content with obsolescence: despite his creak joints and gravely voice, he released two albums in the past year.

This is a word that typically comes from biology, and means aging, or the process of getting older. The focus is on the deterioration that we—and all organisms—experience as we age. Think of the word senile, which also begins with sen-, and describes an old, usually forgetful man (the Latin senex means old man).

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