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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Misleading Words

Below are some tough words, mainly because they mean something that most students wouldn’t expect. Some words, such as ‘climacteric’ are just difficult. For ways to memorize these and others check out this post on memorizing difficult GRE words.



Many assume this word relates to ‘temper’, as in he’s got a nasty temper. To temper, as a verb, actually means to reduce the intensity of something:

Wayne’s enthusiasm over his new job was tempered with the fact that he was sitting next to Archibald, his childhood arch-nemesis.

In it’s adjective ‘temperate’ takes on a slightly different color from ‘temper.’ One who is temperate is restrained in their emotions. Often, this moderation relates to food and drink. Speaking of drink, remember the Temperance movement, which swept through the world—including the United States—in the early part of the 20th century. The movement decreed that one should be temperate with alcohol to the point of complete abstinence.

Not to be forgotten is the word ‘intemperate’, which means not restrained. As this weekend is the Super Bowl, I imagine an Intemperance movement will be afoot across the United States.



One may be inclined to think this word relates to the railroad. For the more vocabulary-minded, they may well conclude (albeit incorrectly) that ‘raillery’ relates to the verb ‘rail’, which means to criticize sharply. ‘Raillery’, however, is nothing more than light-hearted banter.

When his friends’ usual raillery suddenly became snide, Harold accused them of ganging up on him.



I don’t want to bore you with the details, but this word does not relate to ‘boring.’ To be boorish means to be lacking manners to the point of rudeness. The noun form ‘boor’ is also common.

Years of country living had turned Wilson into a boor: he would cut in line, make loud, invidious comments about people in public, and he would demand that everyone address him as ‘sir.’


This word does not relate to ‘climate’ or ‘acclimatize.’ Any critical moment or event can be described as a ‘climacteric.’ Notice that even though the word ends in ‘-ic’ it is a noun. That is not to say ‘climacteric’ can also be an adjective. One can describe an event or movement that is of great consequence as climacteric.

Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony represented a climacteric in music: never before had a composer written such a large-scale symphony, let alone one that resonated with overt nationalistic themes. 



Hmm…if one possesses something one owns it. If one prepossesses it one owns it before. Therefore, ‘unprepossessing’ means not owning something before…Nice try! To be prepossessing is to be charming and attractive (winsome is another good, misleading word that happens to be a synonym for ‘prepossessing’). To be unprepossessing is to be modest in appearance.

While unprepossessing, Gertrude Stein was able to seduce some of the brightest minds of the 1920’s with her profound intelligence and eye for the aesthetic.


What are some tough GRE words you’ve come across in your vocabulary studies? Let us know below!

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