GRE Vocab Wednesday: ‘S’ Words

A few months back a “Magoosh-er” had asked me to do a ‘S’-based Vocab Wed. in honor of his first name. This request is perfect since I’ve never had a ‘S’-based Vocab Wednesday. Below are some words—a few of which are high-frequency—that have yet to be featured on Vocab Wed. (Yes, Solomon, I’m talking about you!).


Many things are typically knock-offs of something else. Indeed, very few things are not only one of kind but also go on to influence countless imitators. To this rare group, we have the word seminal. In physics, the ideas of Newton and Einstein are seminal; in music, the music of Bach and that of the Beatles is seminal; in technology, the microchip and the iPhone merit the word seminal.


Fresh mountain air; kale juice and coconut water; meditation and good sleep—all are salubrious. That is, they are healthy for us. Not only things that are good for us, but also places that are in good shape and not rundown are salubrious. A neighborhood that is not salubrious might have ramshackle buildings with drug dealers cooking meth inside, a la Walter White.


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A fancy way of saying wise, sapient has fallen out of use in the last fifty years. This is perhaps not too surprising given that we already have a fancy way of saying wise: sagacious. Still, the GRE might throw this in as a distractor: Is the answer sapient or viscous? Well, if you want a word that means flowing like sap, you’ll want to pick the latter.


I always picture a sick elephant when I hear this word. Yet, this word has nothing to do with ailing pachyderms: it means shamelessly kissing up to someone to get ahead. I suppose a Republican—a political party by an elephant—who flatters to get ahead and who suddenly feels ill could be called be a ‘sycophant’ (indulge me a little on that one). Of course, any person in the world can be a sycophant by simply kissing up to get ahead. The adjective form, sycophantic, is also common.


This word has nothing to do with citrus fruits or sandwiches (or, for that matter, under, which the root sub- commonly denotes). If you want to describe something that is so amazing as to make your jaw drop, sublime is the word. A sunset, in which magenta and crimson hues paint the sky, is sublime. Mozart’s piano concertos, in which he seems to be channeling the music of angels, are sublime. The winning goal in the World Cup, in which that German guy bounced the ball off his chest and kicked it into the one millimeter of available goal space…sublime.


Literally, a salvo is a discharge of weapons at the same time. Figuratively, this word connotes a simultaneous unleashing of verbal wrath. Currently, a salvo of accusations has been fired at Vladimir Putin for supporting the rebel group that putatively shot down the Malaysian flight. But you don’t need an international incident to get the verbal salvos—as a daily session in Congress clearly shows.


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14 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: ‘S’ Words

  1. Bhopesh Bassi July 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Hello Chris,
    My name starts from B and a “B” words Vocab Wednesday is yet to appear. Since, there is a plethora of B words on the GRE word lists, I would request you to publish a B words post.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 28, 2014 at 11:46 am #

      Let your will ‘B’ done :).

      I’ll have a B in honor of your first and last name up some time next month.

      Thanks for the rec 🙂

  2. Solomon July 24, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Ahh mon frère! This kind gesture of recognition is certainly appreciated. Although, after keenly following Vocab Wednesday every week, I was beginning to question our relationship. Worse yet, I was even questioning the value of ‘S’ letter words and the nom de guerre that I have taken up in writing these Magoosh comments. Okay just kidding! My name is actually Solomon–last name Tesfaye–in case any of you Magoosh heads want to be Facebook friends, so we can all cry and struggle in unity while sharing funny vine videos.

    In reply to Mireille, my favorite ‘S’ letter word or phrase is actually “sine qua non,” which captures the nature of this blog to all the GRE lovers (i.e. the weirdos).

    • Mireille July 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      …hey, Solomon! So I guess you never really left, you’ve been with us all along, a bit quiet, though. 🙂 I did put that name in facebook, but jeez…there’s so many of you guys! 😀 So which is our Solomon?!! The one with the pink 🙂 head embellishment, next to the resting camels? 😀

      • Solomon July 28, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

        Oh I continue to forget the endless iterations and travesties of Solomon on Facebook. As you can see by now, my entire name is quite popular among the Ethiopian community–which is both a good and a bad occurrence, depending on the context. Nonetheless, I am the one with the EEG electrodes on his head :).

        • Mireille July 29, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

          Solomon, you really have no idea how many of you there are! You scroll down, until the down arrow key brakes down and there’s still lots of ‘you’ yet to uncover. Maaaaaan…………. just… just give us the link!! 😀

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 28, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      Yes Solomon,

      Nom de guerre, nom de plum… or Nom de Chris? At least, Mireille thought so :). But it is nice to see that you are a real person and not some hyper-intelligent bot created by!

      And sorry for leaving you hanging there. Typically, there’s a backlog of posts. Also, sorry, I did not know that “sine qua non” was a sine qua non of your ‘S’ words. Perhaps a future Vocab. Wed. of Latin-based words.

      Till then, hope to see you are around the blog from time to time 🙂

      • Solomon July 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

        Enough with the apologies! It’s all good in the Magoosh hood (that sounded a lot better in my head).

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele July 29, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

          Cool 🙂

  3. Mireille July 24, 2014 at 5:14 am #

    …Solomon’s favorite one would most likely be…salubrious! not only starts with an s, but it even ends with one. 🙂 by the way, where did he go??

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 28, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      It looks like he made a little appearance above. And I promise: he’s not I 🙂

  4. SriHari July 24, 2014 at 3:06 am #

    Hey Chris,

    Could you please do a post differentiating words like DISAFFECTED, DISINTERESTED, UNINTERESTED, INDIFFERENT and similar confusing ones? If you already did one please point me there.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 28, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      Oh that’s a great idea! I’ll put that in the cue for Vocab. Wed. It should be up some time next month. Thanks again for the recommendation 🙂

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