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GRE Vocab Wednesday: False Starts

Some vocabulary masquerades as a common word.  That is, the first part of the word spells out another word—a word that doesn’t actually relate to the definition of the larger word it is a part of. Take the first word on this list, bombastic. Your first inclination may very well be to think the word relates to things blowing up. The only thing that seems to be blowing up—in the case of bombastic—is a person’s ego (see below). So don’t be deceived by the word at the beginning, and learn the actual definition of this tricky class of words.



Puff out your chest. Go ahead, stick your sternum out, tilt you head back slightly, and start using big vocabulary words. There you go—you’re being bombastic. In other words, a bombastic person tries to sound very important, but doesn’t really have much to say. A good synonym for bombastic is pompous, which somewhat fits this category, as the word pomp describes a formal, public ceremony.


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Nope, this word doesn’t relate to the wealthiest nation in the E.U. In fact, it was first used by a Brit, a lowly scribe who you may have heard of before: William Shakespeare. Germane, as it first appeared in Hamlet, means relevant or relating to the topic at hand. A good synonym, and a confusing word to boot, is material, which we all recognize because of its first definition.



To hack something about is to chop at it violently. If something is hackneyed, on the other hand, it is commonplace and lacks originality. A book that has a really common plot is hackneyed; a movie in which the lead male and female fall in love is hackneyed; a song with three chords and the word love used in every other line is hackneyed. The word hack also has another definition—besides one relating to ax wielding. A hack is a writer who writes predictable stories or scripts, a meaning which is directly tied to the word hackneyed.



This word does not directly relate to solve. Though loosely speaking, if you are able to become debt free many of your problems have probably been solved. That’s right—to become solvent means to be free of debt. Solvent also relates to the laboratory; a solvent is any substance that dissolves another substance. This latter definition, however, wouldn’t be test on the GRE.



When you say this word out loud it sounds like lion eyes (or Lyin’ Eyes, a popular Eagles tune). But the word does not relate to lion, eyes, or, for that matter, lying eyes (though the Eagles have been lionized for their hit Hotel California). To lionize is to treat someone like a celebrity, or someone worthy of lots of attention. Both the worthy (Lady Diana) and the not so worthy (Paris Hilton) have been lionized, so the word is neither positive nor negative.


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