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GRE Vocab Wednesday: High-Frequency “E” Words

Last week, the theme was words beginning with ‘V’’, and I used the movie ‘V’ for Vendetta to provide the words. This week, I’ve been inspired to choose another letter, the letter ‘E’. Unfortunately, there is no movie called “E” is for Ebullient, in which the main character spews out a barrage of ‘E’ letter words. That doesn’t mean this list is absolutely dull (one of the few words containing five ‘e’s is here). Nor does it mean that the words below won’t show up on the GRE.


If something is around for only a short second and then disappears, it is evanescent. The bubbles a child runs after are evanescent, bursting just as child reaches out her hand. Joy can be evanescent (indeed it usually is).

The storm flashed into existence above us and lasted only a short time—an evanescent turbulence of wind and cloud.



Literally this word refers to bubbles, lots of them. But not the big kind of bubbles mentioned a moment ago. I’m talking fizzy bubbles. Of course, the GRE isn’t going to throw a Text Completion at you about soda. It will, however, test the figurative definition of effervescence: vivacious and full of life.

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After a record-setting quarter, the sales manager was in an effervescent mood, letting several employees leave work early that day.



As the ol’ platitude goes, “Life is full or ups and downs.” And most of us are down during those downs, but not he (or she!) of equanimity. No matter how stressful the events, a person known for their equanimity maintains calmness and composure.

As the stock market plummeted, losing 30% of its value in one day, Lance was the picture of equanimity, believing that the market would quickly shoot back up.



The word equitable describes something that is fair and balanced.  A just society strives for equitable treatment for all of its people (and animals!). An ideal courtroom strives for the equitable treatment of all those who take the stand.

The equitable distribution of ice cream to a group of 5 year olds will ensure that no fighting will occur—at least until the ice cream is gone.



We’ve all had those teachers who speak in a monotone voice, droning on, even about topics that should be interesting. Then there are those ebullient teachers who can infuse even prosaic topics with excitement. Ebullient, of course, doesn’t just refer to teachers, but anyone who has an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.

Around strangers, Cyrus was quiet, but around his friends he became ebullient, discussing most things with relish.



Fake and phony are such colloquial terms. So if you want to sound smart, you can throw in ersatz (though don’t try to be too phony!). Erstaz, from the German for replacement, means something that is not real or genuine. It can describe the “gold” watch you bought in an alley; it can describe the laughter of someone trying to get you to buy something (ersatz or not).

The car dealer’s ersatz laughter was immediately followed by a price quote, one that Shelley found highly inflated.


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5 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: High-Frequency “E” Words

  1. Aaron August 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Chris, we spend a lot of time learning “high-frequency” GRE words in context, so I was a bit distraught when I encountered a number of presumably “low frequency” words used in the MGRE text completion drill sets. In their medium level questions, which seem harder than anything I’ve encountered yet, the following words appeared: halcyon, maven, disportment, patois, and pleonasm. Some of these were even correct answers. Even on a recent Magoosh practice test I encountered paranomasia as the correct answer. What was especially troubling was that “maven” was the only word I knew and was offered in the context of expert in a general sense, so I marked it as the answer. The answer key preferred virtuoso, however, which is really reserved more for musical contexts.

    So, Is the real GRE this frightening in terms of low frequency words, and would the answers really be this murky as to prefer virtuoso over expert? I’m averaging about 80% so far on Magoosh verbal questions after 2 practice tests, but in Barron’s and MGRE verbal text completions I’m seeing more like 70%.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 14, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      Hi Aaron,

      I’m sorry you had to experience the MGRE vocabulary torture machine :). Yes, those words are ridiculously difficult. Even the medium-level questions, as you pointed out, have ridiculously difficult words (many of these words will not show up on the GRE). The real GRE–and by extension, Magoosh–do not use such low-frequency/obscure words. The current test is more of your ability to untangle the syntax of a sentence and decipher its meaning.

      Because MGRE stresses such difficult–and often obscure vocabulary–I do not recommend it (The TC/SE guide is the only one of the eight MGRE guides that I don’t recommend). The TC/SE in the MGRE six practice tests are, for the most part, not as bad in terms of obscure vocab.

      Finally, the GRE likes to test nuances in answer choice on some of its TC. But never would that difference come down to virtuoso over expert, or vice versa. That’s just a bad question.

      Hope that helps allay your TC fears :)!

      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele August 14, 2013 at 10:44 am #

        I should probably add that those questions were old, old Magoosh questions that were taken down some time again (for the very reasons that you cited above!). So don’t worry, paronomasia, will not show up on the real exam. I’m going through the questions to make sure to remove those questions from the pool. I think the only way you would have seen them in the first place is if you signed up a while ago for Magoosh. Again, sorry for undue anxiety those questions caused.

        • Aaron August 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

          Chris, thanks. I think MGRE got the message, as their 5lb gre book has much more high-frequency-word text completions. I just started taking Magoosh practice tests, and my verbal scores are fairly consistent, averaging between 160-164. I am mostly worried about the RC, where one must mark all answers that apply, or the main idea questions, where you are always stuck between two possible answers that are of poor quality. Since I am encountering this problem on every practice resource – MGRE, Barron’s, etc – I figure that ETS will do the same thing.

          • Chris Lele
            Chris Lele August 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

            Hi Aaron,

            Yes, ETS will likely do the same thing. I agree these questions can be very tricky and you really have to be on guard. Remember to make sure that the correct main idea answer is not too vague, too specific, and is correct for every word in the answer choice (not just half of the answer choice).

            Let me know if you run into some iffy questions on this issue :)!

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