GRE Vocabulary: Top 5 Basic Words

If you are just starting off learning vocabulary, you will want to make sure you have a strong grasp of basic words. These are the words you are likely to see on the easier section of the GRE verbal. That doesn’t mean they are unimportant – quite the contrary, learning words like trenchant and puerile aren’t going to be very helpful unless you are certain that you’ll be moving on to the harder sections.

Below is a list of common, basic words that you want to make sure you know:



Something innocuous is harmless and doesn’t produce any ill effects. Many germs are innocuous. As are most bug bites. Even television, in small doses, is typically innocuous. Innocuous can also mean inoffensive. An innocuous question is unlikely to upset anyone.

Everyone found Nancy’s banter innocuous – except for Mike, who felt like she was intentionally picking on him.

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A straightforward and honest look at something is a candid one. Many of the great photographers have created enduring work because they turn their respective lens on what is real. Whether these photos are from the Dust Bowl, the Vietnam War, or on the Arab Winter, they move us because they reveal how people felt at a certain moment.

A person can also be candid if they are being honest and straightforward with you.

Even with a perfect stranger, he was candid and would rarely hold anything back.



Unpredictable, often wildly so, erratic is reserved for pretty extreme cases. An athlete who scores the winning point one game, and then botches numerous opportunities. The stock market. And your sleep, especially if your stocks aren’t doing well, can become erratic.

Erratic can also mean strange and unconventional. Someone may be known for their erratic behavior. Regardless of which meaning you are employing you should be erratic in your GRE prep.



If one has a very depressing take on life, we say that person has a bleak outlook. Landscapes can be bleak (Siberia in January, the Texas of No Country for Old Men), and writers, too (Dostoevsky, Orwell).



If something literally pours out in abundance we say it is profuse. This pouring is usually figurative. A person who apologies ceaselessly does so profusely. Perhaps a little more vividly, certain men who fail to button up their shirts all the way, let the world – perhaps not unwittingly – know of their profuse chest hair (which, on their part, should necessitate a profuse apology).


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6 Responses to GRE Vocabulary: Top 5 Basic Words

  1. Gautami Devandla April 30, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    Even. After going through magoosh Flashcards. Africtional 1000 words words from different sources. But still not helping me . How long does it take to be familiarized with verbal words

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 6, 2016 at 2:03 am #

      Hi Gautami 🙂

      Learning vocabulary

      First off, it’s important to note that learning vocabulary isn’t just about knowing the definitions of words but rather developing a deeper understanding that allows us to recognize and utilize our vocabulary in context. There are many ways to improve your vocabulary. In addition to using flashcards, I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as MUCH as possible. This will improve your knowledge of vocabulary in context as well as your comprehension. We recommend reading articles with high level of vocabulary, articles from sources like The New Yorker or Art & Letters Daily. And for some tips on how to improve your vocabulary in context, make sure to check out this blog post 😀

      I hope these suggestions and resources help!

  2. villina July 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Siberia in April could actually be considered anything but bleak. -) April is very vivid month in those places. Choose January instead and you will not deviate from the truth.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Well, I stand corrected :). Makes sense – the snow is melting, the sky a crystalline blue… I’ll change it to January :).

      • Bob March 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

        He never changed it to January.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele March 24, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

          It has been changed 🙂

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