GRE Vocab Wednesday: Relatively Obscure Words

Doing well on the GRE verbal goes far beyond just knowing obscure words. The test writers reward those who can understand complex text and make valid inferences about this text. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a strong vocabulary; but that will only get you so far.

Nonetheless, there may be that one Text Completion in which the correct answer hinges on the difference between two words, one a word that you know pretty well and one that you’ve never seen before. For example:

The modern antibiotic assault on “bugs” has been effective at eliminating much deleterious bacteria. Yet in not (i) _______ such bacteria, antibiotics have allowed that which remains to proliferate, thereby making antibiotic-resistant bacteria more (ii) _______.

Blank (i)
(A) pinpointing
(B) extirpating
(C) animating

Blank (ii)
(D) undetectable
(E) common
(F) percipient

Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.

Now, I’m assuming that you already have a very strong vocabulary and that you’ve gone through most GRE words. If you haven’t, the words below aren’t really worth your time—they’re that uncommon. Those looking to move on to the hardest verbal section, however, should be familiar with these relatively obscure words. They might be the correct answer, or they might be a tempting distractor (test-speak for wrong answer).

As for the Text Completion above, take another crack at it once you’ve learnt the words below.


A word that is mostly used in historical contexts, manumit means to release from slavery or liberate. The opposite would be to subjugate. Manumission is the noun form of manumit—I’m guessing I should throw that in there since it looks so different from manumit.


Want to know a fancy way of saying perceptive, one that nobody really uses these days? No? I don’t blame you. But the GRE might throw percipient at you.


Nope, this is not a town in North Dakota, or a movie with the same name. A farrago is a confused. jumble of things. The focus is in on disorder. This list is a farrago of words, not surprisingly, given my loose theme: relatively obscure words.


This word does not relate to a wooly quadruped. There are two definitions: flickering light that glows softly, and lightly brilliant wit. It’s a pretty poetic word that might end up in one of the passages or in a Text Completion that features a poetic voice.


There were once two words that meant the same thing. One said to the other: there is only room for one of us. And like that, eradicate and extirpate become locked in mortal combat, and only eradicate emerged victoriously, having extirpated extirpate, as it were. To eradicate, by the way, means to completely eliminate or remove any trace of.


A similar word to extirpate, though no bloody battle involved, deracinate means to pull out by the roots. But here the focus is not on eliminating but displacing. Immigrants forced to flee their countries during wartime have been deracinated.

As for the Text Completion above, the answers are (B) and (E). (A) is close but not quite—the sort of subtly you might see test day.


P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

Most Popular Resources

3 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Relatively Obscure Words

  1. Vaishnavi kaul December 14, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    Want to add another unique word and the meaning is equally engrossing

    Sophrosyne – (n) A healthy state of mind, characterized by self control, moderation,and a deep awareness of one’s true self, and resulting in true happiness

  2. Michelle December 11, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    I’m fairly new to using Magoosh and love what I have found so far. However, I find your blog postings a bit of a farrago. (I am hoping that I am using that word correctly) Is there a better way to find the Vocab Wednesday articles and the GRE Articles of the Month other than just searching for them on the blog page?

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply