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GRE Vocab Wednesdays | Fiery Deb”-ate” Verbs


Over the next month or so, Americans across the country are going to be fixed on the television, watching the three scheduled debates between Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton and the Republican hopeful Donald Trump. Trump, known for his aggressive swagger and tendency to speak over the moderates, is likely going to go after Hillary, who is known for her sangfroid and pithy rejoinders. At the same time, Hillary will try to bait Trump so that he’ll either contradict himself or become flummoxed. In non-GRE speak: it’s going to be nasty.

In honor (or dishonor, depending on your level of cynicism) of the debates, I’ve come up with verbs ending in ‘ate’. None of them, given the tense nature of the debate and the starkly opposing temperaments of the candidates, has a positive connotation.


There are many words that mean to criticize. But few carry the harsh, stinging connotation of vituperate. As such, you don’t want to use this word unless the situation really calls for it. But if you want to describe someone who is yelling at another person, pointing their finger at them, telling them that they did a terrible job. Well, vituperate might just be the word for you. As I mentioned Hillary is a little more imperturbable than Trump, so likely we’ll see Trump vituperating Hillary on her trade agreements or use of a private email server. But this has been a surprising election year, so don’t put it past Hillary to wave a vituperative finger at The Donald.


Like many a sport, a debate typically features somebody on the offensive and somebody on the defensive. And like boxing, these roles can change at a moment’s notice. “Equivocate” is something somebody likely does defensively. To equivocate means to avoid answering a question directly, to waffle around the issue and to maybe even try to change the subject. As far as equivocation goes, Hillary is the more likely candidate, especially given the grilling that Trump is likely to give her. She might deflect some of his attacks, but for some of the pointed ones she is likely to equivocate.


When one candidate has just had enough of naming specifics, he or she might just slander the other. To calumniate is to make false statements about another person, statements that are highly defamatory. Fact checkers have shown that Trump is not always completely factual in some of the claims he makes. So when he digs into Hillary, there might be some substance, or he may just be calumniating her (though, Hillary might indulge in some calumny herself!)


As I mentioned, who is on the defensive in a debate and who is on the offensive can change at any moment. For instance, Hillary might be lampooning Trump’s penchant to “make up the facts”, accusing him of contradicting himself at every turn. Instead of defending this charge, Trump might make a counter accusation, saying that Hillary has spent the last 10 years making the country unsafer. To make a counter accusation is to recriminate. The word is more commonly seen as the noun “recriminations”. Luckily, each debate features a moderator, who usually keeps the recriminations in check.

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