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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Words from Article of the Month

Whenever we have an article of the month, dozens of vocab words are featured in the post. Usually, I’ll tell students just to look out for these words as they read the article; I don’t, however, provide a definition.

For the February/March Article of the Month, I delved a bit deeper, checking which ones were high-frequency GRE words (or least relatively so) and which ones had yet to be featured in a Vocab Wed. post. I was surprised to find many words that met the criteria, so I’ve decided to do two posts, one this week and one the next, just to accommodate all these great words.

Below are this week’s choice morsels, waiting for your consumption! And by the way, if you haven’t already, you should check out this “Article of the Month”, which this time features two articles.



How apt to have this as the first word: incipient means beginning, or just starting off. What’s perhaps not so felicitous is that incipient usually connotes something negative, such as the following examples:

The incipient signs of malaria include shivering and high fever.

In the incipient stages of his madness, he could still tell the difference between fact and fiction, though not in every instance.

The outbreak of social unrest was quelled in its incipience, with the already authoritarian government becoming even more tyrannical.



If you’ve been studying GRE intensely for the last month, you’ll probably relate to this word. To be cloistered is to be sheltered from the outside world. For many on the East Coast of the United States, the last few months have been a cloistered existence, as powerful blizzards and waist-high snow make even something as simple as posting a letter a Herculean task.



We usually hear this word in the phrase, “under the rubric of”, which means in the category of. But this word actually has a far more interesting backstory than the mere categorization its definition would imply. Headings on documents were at one time written in red, or a rubrish. Both rubrish and rubric are derived from the Latin rubues, which means red (think of ‘ruby’). While rubric can still mean a heading of a document, the use of rubric as category is far more common.



Though we probably wouldn’t want to admit it, we’ve all been mortified at some point. And I’m not talking about routine embarrassment that comes from forgetting somebody’s name when you are introducing him or her to a friend. I’m talking about the humiliation in which you want to curl into a ball and not see the light of day for a week. After all, mortified comes from mort-, the root for death. So if you are so embarrassed that you could die (not literally, of course), you are mortified.



This word can apply to the natural world, as in the cataclysm that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. It can also relate to the political world, as in the cataclysm of World War I & II, which forever transformed our world. If you haven’t guessed from the context, cataclysm is a major upheaval, usually marked by violence. The dinosaurs were offed by a meteorite; the brutal violence that marked both world wars needs no further elucidation here.



This word doesn’t actually relate to appropriate, at least in a common sense. To appropriate, as a verb, means to either take something without permission or to set aside money for a special purpose. To make things even more confusing, misappropriate relates to the first definition but is not that word’s opposite, as the mis- would imply. Indeed, the words are almost identical in meaning, with misappropriation taking on a clearer meaning of dishonesty.

The government appropriated the farmer’s land because he was delinquent on payments.

The mayor misappropriated the funds that had been earmarked for local charities.


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