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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Top GRE Words Beginning with ‘A’

If you’ve ever had the unenviable task of studying from a word list—something I highly discourage—you’ve no doubt started with words beginning with ‘a’ and have soldiered on from there, most likely not getting past the letter ‘c’ before throwing your hands in the air. But the purpose of this post is not to admonish you against using a word list; it is to focus on high-frequency GRE words that start with the letter ‘a’.



Ever wake up to chirping birds and a blue sky and think: hey, this is going to be a good day? If so, the clear skies and mellifluous avian chatter are auspicious signs: they indicate that the day is going to be a lucky one.

Auspicious, which means favorable and likely to bring success, doesn’t necessarily have to refer to a day where it looks like everything will go your way. Auspicious signs pop up in the economy (right now with house prices on the rise pundits are crowing that a full rebound is afoot); auspicious signs can indeed pop up in your GRE prep (your score has been consistently going up and you have secured the ideal testing time). And if you happened on this post, wondering what GRE words are likely to show up…then, hey, that’s pretty auspicious. If you actually see auspicious test day, then that’s very auspicious.

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Whenever campaign season is nigh, aspersions begin piling up in direct proportion to the amount of mudslinging. And that’s no surprise—aspersions are simply another way of describing the slung mud. That is, an aspersion is a verbal attack against a person’s reputation. Typically this word is couched in the apt phrase: “cast aspersions at.” After all, to cast is another way of saying to sling.

The verb form of aspersion is the not so common asperse, which doesn’t get the cool  “cast” phrase but simply stands alone in the mud.



Imagine you’ve decided to give up a vice that you’ve been carrying with you for many years. It could be smoking, drinking, or gambling, or even something more innocuous, say, meat. But you’re not just giving it up—you’re telling everyone you know that you are formally giving up your vice.  So if you proclaim on facebook that you are now a vegetarian, doing so is an abjuration of your carnivore ways.

It’s hard to talk about abjure without mentioning adjure. Both are GRE words, but abjure is much more common (and that’s why it—and not adjure—is on the list). At the same time, you should not confuse the two meanings. Adjure means to earnestly urge or request someone to do something.

To set an example for his congregation, the pastor abjured using curse words, even avoiding G-rated words like “darn it.”

The human rights group adjured the dictator to free the hostages.



To strongly assert something, usually in a formal context, is to aver. For instance, I could go to traffic court and aver in front of the judge that I was actually going below the speed limit. Aver also pops up in academic contexts. Basically, such and such eminent scientist will aver something, meaning that he or she will declare that they stand behind their facts.

Climate scientists aver that mean global temperatures will continue to rise each year unless countries seriously cut back on carbon emissions.



Have you opened up a college textbook and thought, “What the heck is this all about?” If not, just crack open any text on a higher-level math and you’re likely to be befuddled. Anything that is way over your head (meaning difficult to understand) is abstruse. While many GRE passages may strike you as abstruse at first, as long as you understand the main ideas and don’t fall for any of the traps in the questions, you will be fine.


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5 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Top GRE Words Beginning with ‘A’

  1. more information pertaining to the restaurant December 20, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Can I just say, what a relief it is to find someone that actually knows what they’re talking about online!

  2. Humaira Admani July 31, 2013 at 8:38 pm #


    I know this isn’t on your list but I was wondering if abate and attenuate are synonyms.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 1, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      At a general level both words mean to decrease, so in that sense they are synonyms. But I can’t think of a sentence in which both would work, meaning that they would be interchangeable. In that sense they are not synonyms.

      Since the context differs, in which the two words mean “decrease”, these words would not show up as the two answers on the Sentence Equivalence section.

      Hope that helps!

  3. rupali kaur July 26, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    hi Chris,

    so does aspersion and calumny mean the same ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      Yeah, they are basically the same. Aspersion may be a little more aggressive, such as a politician calling another politician a money-grubbing capitalist to his face vs. calling him the same thing behind his back.

      Hope that helps!

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