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Vocabulary Double Meanings

As this past week was vocabulary, I would be remiss in not including a vocabulary word post. But, instead of a random list, I want to touch on a very important class of words – double meanings based on common words. While words like penurious and austere have double meanings, these words are already vocabulary words in themselves. Most of the time, when the GRE tests double meanings, it takes common words that have a secondary, or what I like to call hidden, definition.


We are involved in many things, from studying to socializing. For something to be involved, in terms of the GRE definition, means it is complicated, and difficult to comprehend.

The physics lecture became so involved that the undergraduate’s eyes glazed over.


Sure, many dream of the day when they can be retiring (preferably to some palatial estate with a beachfront view). The second definition does not necessarily apply to most. To be retiring is to be shy, and have the inclination to retract from company.

Nelson always was the first to leave soirees – rather than mill about with “fashionable” folk, he was retiring, and preferred the solitude of his garret.


Yes, expansive means expansive. It also means communicative, and prone to talking in a sociable manner.

After a few sips of cognac, the octogenarian shed his irascible demeanor and became expansive, speaking fondly of the “good old days”.


A moment is a point in time. We all know that definition. If something is of moment, it is significant and important (think of the word momentous).

Despite the initial hullabaloo, the play was of no great moment in Hampton’s writing career, and, within a few years, the public quickly forgot his foray into theater arts.


When the definition of this word came into existence, there were some obvious biases against the lower classes (assuming that lexicographers were not lower class). It was assumed that those from the base, or the lowest, class were without any moral principles. They were contemptible and ignoble. Hence, we have this second definition of base (the word has since dropped any connotations of lower class).

She was not so base as to begrudge the mendicant the unwanted crumbs from her dinner plate.



When reading, always be sure to look up common words if you think they are being employed differently. Many words have multiple definitions that are totally unrelated to the common meaning.

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4 Responses to Vocabulary Double Meanings

  1. Yash patel December 27, 2016 at 8:50 am #

    Hello sir,
    I am studying gre right now and i’m having little difficulty to from where to start the gre and by which content i can get to increase my gre vocabulary.please advise me on this point.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 27, 2016 at 5:20 pm #

      Hi Yash,

      The very best way to improve your verbal score and your vocabulary is through reading. Reading will help you will all aspects of the verbal section, and here at Magoosh we recommend that students read high-level GRE articles for at least an hour a day. Reading will help you learn vocabulary in context, allow you to understand and process difficult texts efficiently, and provide you with plenty of practice to help your reading speed. We have some good articles on our blog about how to read vocabulary in context,articles to help with your GRE-level reading practice, and practice problems with strategy and explanation in the verbal section of our blog! We also have vocabulary flashcards and a vocabulary eBook to help you learn high frequency GRE words 🙂

      I also recommend that you give Magoosh a try! We provide comprehensive lesson videos and practice questions to help you prepare for the GRE. We have helped many students get great verbal scores, and you can try us out with a free seven day trial 🙂

  2. Aman March 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    Hi ,
    There are some words that have altogether a different meaning when used in different context/form…..
    I was going through the words and noticed these ..


    (i)Excavate the earth beneath
    (ii)vital body fluid
    (iv)also to take a vital body fluid or gradually weaken/destroying a persons health

    The meaning depends on usage
    If a noun is used the above (ii) & (iii) meaning is counted
    But if a verb is used we adhere with(i)and (iv) …..

    Rank is one of the most versatile word

    -One of its meaning is related to categorizing on the basis of certain criteria .
    -Another one is to from groups
    -Rank is also unpleasant smell
    -To Rank is to criticize or insult

    Adamant is one word with different connotation

    Firm determination =>A positive connotation
    Stubborn=>A negative connotation

    Hope this proves fruitful (at least helps me to revise these words :D)

    Will be posting more…


    • Chris Lele
      Chris March 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

      Those are great double-meaning words too!

      I shall incorporate these at some time. One thing I wanted to pointed out is that rank cannot mean to criticize. Perhaps you were thinking of rail, as in to rail against.

      But thanks for these fruitful posts :). Let me know if you can excavate any more of these from the mine of polysemous homophones.

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