GRE Vocab Wednesday: Misleading and Commonly Confused Words

Over the last couple of years, there have been two recurring themes on vocab Wednesdays: misleading words (words that look like a common word but mean something totally different) and easily confusable words (two GRE words look very similar but mean something very different.

Today, I’ve tried to combine both those qualities, by choosing words that are misleading and look like other GRE words.


Burnish vs. Banish

To burnish does not mean to set on fire. To burnish means to polish up. Your resume looking a little underwhelming? Get a professional editor to burnish your resume.

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If you don’t burnish your resume, you might feel as though you’ve been banished from the workforce altogether. To banish someone means to forcefully remove that person from your group, circle of sphere of influence.

In medieval times, those who had upset the king were often banished from the kingdom. Even Napoleon was banished to the island of Elba. And more recently, Edward Snowden, for divulging security information was banished to…well, who knows where he really is these days.


Garish vs. Garnish v. Garner

The first means flashy in a totally tasteless manner (a pink vest with leather pants and matching pink shoes); garnish means to embellish and make fancier, and usually applies to food; and garner means to gather or collect, usually approval. Can you figure out which sentence below takes which word.

Harry loves puttering around in his _________convertible, with its orange hub cabs and turquoise tailfin, but he has yet to _________ much goodwill from neighbors.


Redress vs. Regress

One would think that redress means to dress again. Believe it or not, that isn’t even a valid definition of the word. Redress only means one thing: to make something right. If I forget to do vocabulary Wed. one week, then I could redress this oversight, by having a double vocabulary Wed. the following week.

Regress means to return to a former—and usually inferior—state. Athletes who are in the off-season and pampering themselves usually regress physically (hence pre-season training). If I stopped using big GRE words every day, moved to Guatemala and spoke only Spanish, my vocab skills would soon regress to my pre-college days.


Deduce vs. Educe vs. Adduce

What the deuce?!? Yes, there are three words that end in “duce”. The first one—deduce—you are probably familiar with. To deduce something is to figure it out based on the available evidence. If I walk into my apartment and there are wet paw prints everywhere, I can deduce that my cat has once again dipped its feet in its water bowl and wandered about the house.

Educe, can also mean deduce, but usually has a different definition: to draw out or evoke a quality, one that is usually hidden. A master chef can educe from basic ingredients a meal so delightful as to please a discerning gastronome; an artist can educe the pathos and humanity of a sitting subject from the colors in his easel; a virtuoso pianist can educe complex tonal colors and moods  even from a modest upright.

Adduce, on the other hand, means to provide evidence in support of an argument or point. For instance, if my wife says there is no food in the house, she can underscore her point by opening up the pantry and refrigerator and showing me both are empty. In terms of disputes of facts, Google, the ultimate arbiter of truth, is often adduced to settle the matter.


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11 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Misleading and Commonly Confused Words

  1. Prasad N R March 26, 2018 at 9:31 am #

    Burnish is such a cozen unwonted but wanted word! It is grisly. But, Chris, you have been able to educe my advanced English vocabulary to burnish it. Hats off and thank you 🙂

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm #


  2. rupani tn January 7, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    I need a help in gre words which are pertinant to come in they choose the most sophisticated word or the commonly used word in usa.or in what basis they will choose the words

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 8, 2016 at 9:14 am #

      Hi there 🙂

      Overall, the GRE will test your understanding of vocabulary found in the types of reading materials you’ll find in an academic setting. To help you get an idea of the types of words you’ll see on the GRE, I recommend checking out our GRE Vocabulary eBook and GRE Vocabulary Flashcards. Our flashcards contain 1000 of the most useful GRE words. Knowing high-frequency GRE words can definitely help, which is why we made the flashcards after all!

      Additionally, it’s important to understand that knowing vocabulary is just part of the story. To really improve your verbal score, try to read GRE-level material for at least 30 minutes a day. We have several blog posts with reading suggestions that use vocabulary and writings styles you’ll see on test day 🙂 Here are a couple of those posts to get you started:

      Reading Vocabulary in Context: Where Should I Start?
      GRE Vocabulary Books: Recommended Fiction and Non-Fiction

      Hope this helps!

  3. Menaka October 13, 2013 at 3:46 am #

    Chris I feel you’re A.W.E.S.O.M.E !!! You take so much personal interest in answering to each one of us. I love Magoosh. This is the best tutor for gre EVER !

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 14, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      Thanks sooo much for the kudos :)! I’m always very happy to answer students’ questions :).

      • Amber October 8, 2014 at 7:48 am #

        Kudos….I saw a GRE noun!

  4. AArendy October 7, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Chris u looks so handsome , really stunning looks , try for hollywood

    • Rachel Wisuri
      Rachel October 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

      Chris is on vacation right now, but I’ll be sure to pass along your compliment. 🙂

  5. Mohammed September 5, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    First, sorry I am away from my computer to send you through help, since I am a Premium user.
    Second, Chris, I think you posted the wrong clip. In this video you are talking about Improglio, Fracas, etc. I saw your video at your channel in YouTube, but for the blog it doesn’t match.

    Thanks for your effort

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

      Hi Mohammed,

      Thanks for alerting us! We will take care of that asap :).

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