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GRE Vocab Wednesday: The Countryside

Sated bovines, verdant pastures, and uninterrupted tranquility…ah yes, we’ve arrived in the country. With the grinding hubbub of the city far removed, the countryside offers up numerous charms, and GRE vocabulary.



This is always a misleading word. Many imagine medieval peasants afflicted with the plague…that, however, would be the bubonic, not the bucolic plague. ‘Bucolic’ does very little plaguing, as it were. Indeed, it describes the pleasant aspects of the countryside: contented cows, an unhurried pace of life, and low rolling hills.



This word is misleading too. Of course you are probably not thinking medieval peasants this time around but rusted farm equipment, if you are guessing this word relates to rural life. ‘Rustic’, however, is no different than ‘bucolic’, in that it describes pleasing aspects of the countryside. At this point, I could continue to riff on happy cows and languorous piglets…but I think you get the point.



Yet another pleasant word in the vocabulary arsenal to deploy when you want to wow someone, say if you are driving through the country. ‘Pastoral’ has a slightly different usage, though. In music and art, ‘pastoral’ is used to describe works that evoke the countryside. For instance, Beethoven’s sixth symphony was called the Pastoral Symphony, because—and hopefully I’m not making too much of stretch here—it reminded people (or at least Ludwig) of the countryside.



I know you’ve probably had your fill of bucolic backdrops. So, it’s time for some negativity (hmm…I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about negative connotations). Anyhow, ‘provincial’ is an important GRE word. It not only means relating to the provinces, a meaning that is innocuous enough, but also to those who are narrow-minded.

The implication is that those who spend their time in the countryside have limited exposure to the world, and thus have more backward views (at least from the vantage point of a supercilious urbanite).



This word does not only describe the countryside, but also any area that is far, far away from, well, anything else.  Once you’ve left the cows far behind, and the farm land has given way to untamed swathes of land…you’ve reached the hinterlands. A synonym, and a word with a slightly pejorative connotation, is backwater.

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5 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: The Countryside

  1. Naresh November 8, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    Just to add Idyllic

    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      Thanks :).

      ‘Idyllic’ is another word that fits into this context. It’s similar to bucolic, but focuses more on the peacefulness of the countryside than the quaintness.

      • Marwa November 19, 2012 at 5:07 am #

        Thank you Chris for the for your enthusiastic Style of teaching vocab .I follow your advice on on learning the word in context and I began to fall in love with words , but I hope I’ll be able to remember them on the test 🙂
        could you please tell me How many words do I need to know in order to get a perfect score on the new verbal section ?

        • Chris Lele
          Chris November 19, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

          Well…that’s a hard question to answer :). As long as you are a strong test taker (and do not fall easily for traps), then if you knew every word on the Barron’s 3500 word list, you probably wouldn’t encounter any words you did not know. Even an odd difficult word, here or there, wouldn’t prevent you from answering a question correctly.

          There is also of course the question of how many words you currently know. If you’ve been going through many of the vocab Weds., then you should already have a strong head start.

          That said, I don’t necessarily suggest anyone sit there and try to slog through the Barron’s 3500 word list. The words have vague definitions, and there is no context. Continue following the vocab tips on the Magoosh website, and you will definitely remember the words test day :).

          • Marwa November 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

            Thank you Chris
            i really appreciate your time and effort

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