GRE Vocabulary List: Compound Words

I know many students have spent months learning intimidating words, such as pusillanimous, supercilious, and perniciousness. They assume that, the scarier looking a word is, the more likely it will be to show up on the GRE. That is not to say that such words do not show up on the test. Indeed, the three words above are all relatively high-frequency words. But, you don’t want to only study these Latin-based words at the expense of ignoring words that look more quotidian and inoffensive. A subclass of these innocuous looking words is made up of two simple words. When these words are combined, however, they can take on some interesting definitions.


One word conjures up a relatively violent action, the other what one typically does if they want to escape a dangerous situation.  Put them together and you get, voila, a word meaning careless. That’s right – slapdash means hastily put together. So, don’t have a slapdash approach to studying for the GRE, and check out our study guides here!


About two of the most ordinary words I can think of, and how someone who is generally apathetic might greet the morning. Put them together, and you get something far more exciting. Heyday is the pinnacle, or top, of a person,time period or career.

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In Mike Tyson’s heyday, he was the most formidable fighter on the planet, and was simply unstoppable.

During the heyday of Prohibition, bootlegging had become such a lucrative business that many who had been opposed to the 18th Amendment began to fear it would be repealed.


Okay, I’m not really sure what a hodge is, or for that matter, a podge. But if you put them together, you get hodgepodge, a word that means a confusing mixture or jumble.

Long after his heyday as Germany’s pre-eminent visionary philosopher, Nietzsche began to populate his writing with a hodgepodge of aphorisms.


I guess whatever is below the board is deceptive, because aboveboard means open an honest. It usually refers to government officials who are honest.

The mayor, despite his avuncular visage plastered about the city, was hardly aboveboard – some concluded that it was his ingratiating smile that allowed him to engage in corrupt behavior and get away with it.   


If something is thorough it is complete. Therefore, thorough isn’t too far from the meaning of thoroughgoing, which means absolute.

As a thoroughgoing bibliophile, one who had turned his house into a veritable library, he shocked his friends when he bought a Kindle.


If I tell a tale, I am telling a story, one that is usually a fib. Telltale, however, simply means revealing.

The many telltale signs of chronic smoking include yellow teeth, and a persistent, hacking cough.


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4 Responses to GRE Vocabulary List: Compound Words

  1. Prasad N R March 29, 2018 at 6:16 am #

    Some supercilious people assume that I am pusillanimous and wouldn’t attempt GRE for the second time. But, if I fail to score 330 in GRE, it would either be a heyday of my decade or a hodgepodge mess; I will have to write TOEFL again then.

  2. bharath July 17, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    yup .. u can write the words in a text file and convert into .mp3 file using free software(few are available on net )

  3. priya October 18, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    hi chris,

    I was wondering if you have any idea on how to record these vocab list to a audio file so that you can get to listen to your own prepared word list.

    when i’m trying to do a revision of vocab words in, i often miss out on some words. Do you have any tip on how we can star these words and go over the missed words to make sure it really gets in to your head.

    I appreciate your help.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

      Hi Priya,

      I am not sure if you are asking how to work with Quizlet.

      In general, difficulty vocab words are ones you really need to get a sense of in
      context. The words giving you trouble look them up on Make sure you have a sense of how these words are used, and when possible, try to use them yourself. To start pick five very difficult words and five examples each. Then, later, try using them in a sentence.

      Hope that helps!

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