GRE Vocab Wednesday: World Cup Vocabulary

For the next month, well over a billion people will tune in to watch a bunch of fleet-footed men chase after a tiny white orb. Yep, it’s World Cup Time, and in honor of this truly global event, I have some GRE vocabulary.

Before I launch into the words, I want to make a quick note: to avoid any ambiguity, I’ll be using the word ‘soccer’ not the word ‘football’. For my American audience football means only one thing, and it’s not currently taking place in Brazil. I know, I know, the rest of the world uses the term ‘football’, but here, on Vocab Wednesday, unambiguity wins the day.


For most people, even running after a ball for 30 meters seems tiring. But when you are a soccer player, you have to relentlessly chase after the ball for 90 minutes non-stop (okay, there is a break in between, but still). To be indefatigable means to never tire, and to be keep pushing your limits. Whether on the soccer pitch or in the world in general, the indefatigable person just keeps going and going (sort of like the Energizer Bunny, if you remember 90’s advertising campaigns).

In the World Cup, it is often the team that is indefatigable and not the team that has the big name players goes on to win. This phenomenon was very much on display when South Korea advanced to the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup. The team consisted of few, if any, international star players, yet through sheer tenacity and indefatigability (the players ran down every single ball), they were able to beat such tournament stalwarts as Italy and Spain.

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Root-wise this is highly confusing word, since the ‘in-‘ means not and the ‘de-‘ means away from. Fatigue, of course, means tired, so we have “not away from tired”, which would mean tired (yes, English can be a kooky language). As indefatigable vocab learners, though, you won’t let this logical inconsistency prevent you from knowing the word.


Usually paired with words such as obstacle, difficulty, etc., insuperable describes something that impossible to achieve. Not some merely difficult challenging (summiting Mt. Everest) but something is downright impossible (summiting Mt. Everest on ice skates).

Down 3-0 at half-time, and down red-carded players, Portugal faced insuperable difficulties against an indefatigable German side–difficulties that not even its star, Christiano Rinaldo, could overcome.

soccer team celebrating in a huddle

Photo by Miquel C.


When a team scores a goal in the World Cup, its fans don’t just celebrate with high-fives; they erupt with fervor verging on the Vesuvian. Even when a team hasn’t scored but one of its players has made a great play, there is an ebullience in the air, be it at the soccer stadium or the local pub. Ebullience means great cheer and enthusiasm. It doesn’t mean complete chaos, but it connotes high enthusiasm. Ebullient can also relate to the individual — one who is full of zeal and enthusiasm.


While ebullience expresses general merriment, pandemonium implies utter chaos. Witness the home fans of whoever wins the 2014 World Cup. People in that country will take to the streets, waving flags, lighting stuff on fire, and turning over cars.

In other words, you might not want to be traveling in that country at the time — unless you don’t mind be swept away in the pandemonium.

Interestingly, this word comes from Milton’s Paradise Lost, a massive poem from the 17th century, concerning the fall of Man. Satan figured prominently, so it should not be surprising that Satan’s pad, specifically his palace in the middle of Hell, was called pandemonium. ‘Pan-‘ means all; ‘demon’ should be pretty clear. Today the word doesn’t have such infernal connotations, but instead describes sheer chaos.
soccer player in red dribbling the ball

Photo by Doha Stadium Plus Qatar


This is an interesting word that on the surface of it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the World Cup. However, I heard one of the ABC sportscasters actually use this word to describe one of the Spanish players, Diego Costa.

Costa, though Brazilian, had lived in Spain for enough years to qualify as a member of its team. Instead of donning the bright yellow Brazilian colors, he chose the fiery red of the former World Champions. A turncoat is one who is a traitor to his country. Perhaps a harsh word to describe the talented Costa, unless you are Brazilian.


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26 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: World Cup Vocabulary

  1. Priyesh June 19, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    I want to score in GRE in 330 in any case. I have 6 months for it so please suggest best material and give me proper guidance for it. Finally coming to the question MGRE books, MAGOOSH premium and Barron’s wordlist with ETS official book is enough?
    I am doing engineering and my maths is strong.
    Please reply me it may change my life.
    Thanks in advance.
    Priyesh (your huge fan).

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

      Hi Priyesh,

      I’m replying — don’t worry 🙂

      Material-wise you are in a good position. That’s thousands of questions on each section.

      A great place for the guidance comes from our study guides:

      Any time along the way, let me know how it is going. If you feel you’ve “hit a wall”, let me know and I’ll try to help :).

      Best of luck!

      • Priyesh June 20, 2014 at 5:44 am #

        Thanks for replying.
        I have already seen 6 month study plan.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 20, 2014 at 10:46 am #


          As someone aiming for a 330 you will want to make sure you focus on the more difficult prep questions out there. For verbal RC, LSAT and GMAT RC are good, as are any of the old GRE RC passages (all of this is in addition to all of the ETS resources for the new GRE–one of which is being released next month: The Verbal Practice Guide).

          For SE/TC, ETS, Magoosh and Manhattan GRE practice tests (not the 5lbs. book) are good.

          For quant, get your hands on as much GMAT prep as possible. If you can get your hands on the old GRE big book that is good to, at least for practice on Quantitative Comparison, which is unique to the GRE.

          Take practice tests every 7-10 days, focusing on your mistakes/approach.

          For vocabulary, the magoosh and MGRE flashcards are good. Do plenty of reading in context (check out the article of the months).

          Finally, comb through every nook and cranny of this blog, since useful tidbits abound.

          Hope that gives a little more specifics 🙂

          • Priyesh June 20, 2014 at 11:22 am #

            Thanks for the great advice.
            You guys are awesome.
            Honestly i can’t even think GRE prep without MAGOOSH because of blog , free pdf , flashcards, study plans and your nice replies.

          • Mireille June 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

            …there! You just changed someone’s life today and it only took you a few minutes! 🙂 This must be what God feels like in His most industrious days. 😉

            • Chris Lele
              Chris Lele June 23, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

              Thanks :))

  2. MJ June 18, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    Hi Chris. Eventhough I was not a zealot of Spain, I was morose when the team was defeated by an indefatigable Chile team which literally, ferreted ‘Brazuca’ in a field. The stalwart seemed stale. The acme has become the nadir.
    Thanks for vocabs of a football oops! soccor tournament. I am such an ebullient student to follow your blog.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

      “The acme has become the nadir” — I love that sentence :).

      Yes, Spain’s early losses were shocking to all. In many ways–if not every way–this marks the end to one of football’s 😉 great dynasties. Are you rooting ebulliently for any other team?

  3. Sriram June 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    I picked up a few words during the course of the England-Italy game. One of the commentators was British – with the typical heavy English accent – and he had some interesting words to say; “Assiduously”, describing the diligent effort Pirlo’s puts in on his free-kicks, “remonstrate” against the referee decisions by some of the querulous English defenders,and, finally, “dispossessed” when the striker was robbed of the ball. In conclusion, since you mention Portugal, I would describe Pepe as ‘feckless’ and his head-butt an inane act, justifying the public opprobrium he’s had to face since.

    – Sriram.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

      Wonderful write-up, Sriram!

      You use come choice words…and are tempting me to do a World Cup Vocabulary Part II 🙂

      • Sriram June 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

        Please do. I guess Spain and England,today, got their comeuppance. BTW, its that time of the month when we eagerly await the “article of the month” – Is it coming anytime soon?

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 20, 2014 at 11:35 am #

          Yep, it should be up next week 🙂

      • Mireille June 19, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

        … I guess that would be fine. But not before posting Part II for “One of the Biggest Mistakes You Can Make on the GRE Essay”. Don’t you know we’re watching you?! 😀

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 20, 2014 at 11:33 am #

          Hopefully, I’ll get to that next week–meaning, it will be up the following week.

          • Mireille June 20, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

            …ok. Just wanted to pull your sleeve a bit here, before all this football / soccer epidemic takes you away irreversibly. 🙂

      • Sunny Leone June 20, 2014 at 12:12 am #

        Definitely Part II will be interesting.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 20, 2014 at 11:34 am #

          I’ll try to make sure it is 🙂

  4. Mireille June 18, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    …yes, good point. Why “indefatigable” and not “infatigable” or even “unfatigable”, I guess we’ll never know.

    I’m equally disappointed in those who came up with such…flexible creativity in the word world, as I am with the ones who felt the need to borrow words from other languages, for instance, but apparently just liked the way the word sounded, since they never really cared to carry it over with its original semantics.

    Why all the disappointment? Because when you think knowing other languages will make learning “foreign origin” words in English just a breeze, your next step is only to realize there’s also the “reverse” of the shiny medal — if the word you thought you knew, meant one thing, well, in English apparently it means something totally different, AND in some cases…it even means the exact opposite! 🙂

    But I guess, back in time, when people started giving words with one hand and taking words with the other, didn’t really think that down the road there will be a GRE for others to take. 😀 OR…maybe they KNEW and that’s exactly why they felt like being “funny”. 😀

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 19, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

      Good points 🙂

      If you haven’t already, an excellent book to read on this subject is Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue. Highly informative and, believe it or not, laugh-out-loud funny. After reading that book, I realize what a ungainly, unruly, mongrel, hodgepodge of arbitrary syntax and other tongues English truly is.

      • Mireille June 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

        The book sounds tempting indeed — I’ll add it to my list, thanks! But I still believe, compared to learning a Latin-origin language, learning English is a breeze.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 20, 2014 at 11:33 am #

          Hi Mireille,

          May I ask: what is your native language? And do you speak, or have you learned, any other languages?

          • Mireille June 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

            Chris, my native one is Romanian. I also studied French on a structured schedule (meaning years and years in school), which I can’t really say about English, which I just…learned rather more chaotically, if I was to juxtapose the two “studying” ways.

            On the other hand, since Spanish and Italian are, just like Romanian, Latin-origin languages, I have some sort of inkling on their vocabulary / sentence syntax / grammar. However, I cannot speak any of them fluently – I never really put any efforts into that. Unlike French, which I used to, but haven’t had in so long, so…So I’m one of those people who had so much, but lost most of it along the way. 🙂 I guess, I never really looked at it as something truly valuable, worth of guarding.

            I could probably re-learn French really easily if I really wanted to, but the interest I used to have in it is no longer there, that language simply doesn’t attract me any longer. Did you ever study any foreign languages at all?! It seems to be you invested quite some time and effort into English, though. 🙂

            • Chris Lele
              Chris Lele June 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

              Wow, you’re a veritable polyglot 🙂

              I’ve dabbled in many languages, from Korean to Arabic, but really am only fluent in English, which, as my native language, has come more naturally. Building the vocabulary, though, has taken many years 🙂

              • Sabastine July 9, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

                So voracious and now a vocabulary Deity imbued with raft of emollient and salubrious words! 😀
                @Chris magoosh

                Well, so ebullient on the mesmerizing and resounding victory of Argentina against their daunting counterparts.
                How do you see it?

          • Mireille June 20, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

            …it seems to *me* 🙂

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