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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Words of Few Letters

Short vocabulary words are oftentimes not given their due. After all, words such as “lugubrious” and “mellifluous” are, well, just so flashy (and frightening!) that we can’t help but be drawn to them. Nevertheless, no matter how tiny a word is it can significantly influence the meaning of a sentence. Here are a few short (or letter-starved) words that you should know for the GRE.



Maybe, you know someone named Pat. Maybe someone just pat your back for a job well done. Well, move over colloquial pats…the only pat you will see on the GRE is an adjective. Explanations that water down complex truths, providing little more than an oversimplification, are pat. For instance, a pat definition of pat is simple. Pat is a little more complex than that.

Gary had expected his best friend to provide some insightful feedback on Gary’s existential woes; however, the friend just provided the pat reply that we all die some day.



This word rhymes with ‘tie’. It means to compete with someone, usually over something in which a reward is involved.

Vying for only two spots left on the varsity basketball team, the players ran up and down the court, furiously chasing each loose ball.



This word sound like ‘hue’, but does not relate to color. To hew is to adhere or conform to. It’s one of those words best illustrated in context. So, I will hew to those very words.

Much like an itinerant chameleon, Martha hews to the etiquette of whichever country she happens to be traveling through, and is therefore able to provide readers of her travelogue a unique glimpse into exotic cultures.

Vascoux, not hewing exclusively to the tenets of modern jazz, imbues his trumpet playing with pathos reminiscent of the music of 19th century Romantic composers.



Let’s say you have just opened a restaurant. You want your friends to tell the world about the amazing dishes of pasta that you are going to whip up. Even if your culinary skills fall somewhat short of Wolfgang Puck, your friends will sing the praises of your kitchen creations. That is they will tout your new restaurant to others. To tout means to publicize/ advertise something by speaking highly of it.

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20 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Words of Few Letters

  1. Heba October 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Hi chris, i have one month left to exam. D u think at that limited time, it is better to read essay in newspapers and magazines or read reading comprehension in order to develop my vocabulary in context?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 16, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      Hi Heba,

      Regardless of how much time you have, I think it doesn’t make too much of a difference between where you are learning vocabulary in-context – via RC passages or articles that are vocab-heavy. Make sure you follow-up by making flashcards of the words you encountered (and revisiting the words in context via

      Hope that helps!

  2. Sean October 13, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Hi Chris

    I think you missed out the actual implementation of the word in the sentence example for ‘vie’.

    “With only two spots left on the varsity basketball team, the players ran up and down the court, furiously chasing each loose ball.”

    Does the following work?

    “Vying for only two spots left on the varsity basketball team, the players ran up and down the court, furiously chasing each loose ball.”

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

      Thanks for catching that :). I totally forgot to put the word in there…I was definitely going for something very similar to your helpful sentence (which I’ll use it instead :)).

  3. Heba October 12, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Hi chris,
    Hats off for your effort. i am trying to pursue your recommendation about using the words I memorize but I can not. Wen I chat with gre buddy, no gre word comes to my mind. Any suggestion!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Hi Heba,

      I would actually recommend using them on yourself. You know how we all have a running monologue in our heads. Well, try to pepper that with GRE words you learn. Oftentimes it is more difficult to use them on an actual person–GRE buddy or not–because we feel silly and awkward.

      Now if you are feeling bashful even in front of yourself, try writing words down. The key though is not to look at your list of words and then start coming up with sentences, but to try to use the GRE words that are floating about your head.

      Hope that helps :).

  4. Harish Chetty October 12, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    I just searched for Magoosh and it gave me a huge set of quizlets named the same which are probably copied from you by various users, So I am unsure which one is the right user for Magoosh.
    When I try GRE I see princeton’s hit parade which Iooks good.
    Barrons gre looks hopeless with 4759 words lol.
    I am avoiding Kplan as you have already said.

    Can you please tell me what software to use for testing software from Princeton, Barron, Manhattan or Nova? I will be buying Magoosh soon so I need something which I can use in my college on my Laptop as Internet is not available there.

    Is there a offline version of Magoosh?

    Any more help will be really appreciated.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Hi Harish,

      Yes, you definitely need an internet connection to use Magoosh, but we do also have some alternatives:

      1. Our free eBooks (downloadable/printable PDFs):
      -A Complete Guide to the Revised GRE:
      -Magoosh’s Complete Guide to GRE Vocabulary:
      -A Complete Guide to GRE Math Formulas:

      2. Our apps, which you can use to watch lesson videos if you have a smartphone –

      As for the flashcards, PR Hit Parade is good (it’s related to the Princeton Review Word Smart book, which I’ve recommended to students in the past).

      Hope that helps!

      • Harish Chetty October 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

        Thank you mate for all your help
        But can you please help me about which software to use for practice when I am offline?

        • Chris Lele
          Chris October 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

          Hi Harish.

          When you are off-line, your options aren’t too many. But despair not – you can still print out our ebooks – indeed having them by your side as you do practice questions (whether from Magoosh or others) is always helpful!

      • Harish Chetty October 13, 2012 at 11:16 am #

        And one more question please,
        Are there books/ pdf like your vocab book or Word power by Norman Lewis (I am done with both) for hit parade/important gre words , They really help a lot and make it way more easier to recognize words.
        Thank you for the pdf for vocab, it’s extremely useful

        • Chris Lele
          Chris October 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

          I like Princeton Review’s Word Smart. There is a general one, then one for the GRE, and even a Word Smart II. The format is similar, though probably not as descriptive as Lewis or Magoosh. You essentially get a few example sentences next to every definition.

          Hope that helps!

      • Harish Chetty October 13, 2012 at 11:30 am #

        Sorry Chris but I am so full of questions, but I believe this will help others also
        Where can we get synonym pairs on the Internet which are used in GRE. This will improve the chances of good scoring in verbal drastically

  5. Pallavi October 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I am premium user of Magoosh. My GRE date is 6th Nov’12.
    I need help regarding your blog. Whichever blog I read, I learnt
    something out of that. but I wonder which blog should I read first? As
    exam date is nearing,I am getting nervous and even time is passing.
    By the way, vocab-e-book is awesome.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 12, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

      Hi Pallavi,

      The key is to read the blog posts in the area in which you feel you are struggling most. There is a bar at the top which makes this easy to do. You can basically search through RC, TC, etc.

      What’s also very important is that you balance reading blog posts with doing actual practice questions (sometimes it is easy to get bogged down in one or the other). Reading a few blog posts a day in the area in which you feel you need the most practice, and then applying those techniques to actual practice problems is optimal.

      Hope that makes sense, and don’t hesitate to ask any follow-up questions if it doesn’t :).

  6. Harish Chetty October 10, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Hey Chris, I have like my GRE exam in exactly 12 days and I am very good in Quant but pretty average in Verbal . I am trying to grasp new vocabulary words by doing it daily as much as I can even though thats not the best way. I am studying from Magoosh Vocab Pdf, watching your videos and adding new words which I see in sentence completion from ETS and Kaplan book. Please suggest something which can help me add up more and more vocab as I am severely pressed for time.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      Hi Harish,

      I commend your pluck :). Prepping words with little time left takes lots of effort and patience. Make sure that you are not only learning words from the flashcards but that you are trying practice questions, so you can get a feel for how words are employed in sentences. Indeed, going through the ETS material and Magoosh practice questions is a great way to augment your vocabulary. When you don’t know a word, simply make a mini-flashcard using As far as stock flashcards go Manhattan GRE does a pretty good job (there flashcards offer helpful example sentences and synonyms/related words).

      Finally, don’t forget to use, throughout the day, the words you are learning. Doing so reinforces the definitions.

      Good luck!

      • Harish Chetty October 11, 2012 at 5:17 am #

        Thank you very much for the reply mate. Just a few questions more. Does the Kaplan software use words commonly seen in GRE?? I see that the books have been reviewed well but do they apply to the accompanying softwares?.
        One more question: Can you please guide me to a useful set on which will help me on the exams 🙂

        • Chris Lele
          Chris October 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

          From what I’ve seen in Kaplan’s books, some of its questions use words that are obscure. I wouldn’t waste my time with their practice material :).

          For, I know there is Magoosh flashcard set. A good way to search is to just enter in GRE followed by the publisher, e.g. Barron’s GRE, Manhattan GRE, etc.

          Let me know if that helps, if not we’ll come up with another way for you to access a good set of cards.

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