GRE Vocab Wednesday: Watch Your Four-Letter Words


Four-letter words fly under the radar, deceiving us into thinking that they aren’t all that important. But these words that are short on letters can be long on meaning.


In English, certain words are reserved for solemn, formal occasions. “Aver” comes to us from the courtroom and means to attest or declare, e.g., the defendant averred that he was nowhere near the scene of the crime. More broadly speaking, “aver” can be used to describe an intellectual person who is making a firm statement, e.g. Most scientists studying climate change aver that we must make significant change in global emission lest irreparable damage is done to the earth.


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From the Latin for cross, the crux is the most essential or important point of an issue. The crux of climate change (to invoke that example, yet again) is that the Earth is changing so much that we might not be able to undo the damage. A good way of thinking about crux is that it is the heart of the matter, the most essential point.


A ruse is a clever trick or scheme. People who are spies live lives that are a complete ruse. They pretend to be somebody who they aren’t and make friends with the very people who are their enemies. Of course, pulling a ruse need not be that sinister; when I proposed to my wife, I pretended that we were going on an average road trip, describing the hotel I had apparently booked a few hours out of town. Instead, I drove to the airport where we boarded a plane to Central America, where, in the middle of a beautiful lake, I asked her to marry me.


This word does not relate to locomotives, at least the meaning I’m referring to here. To rail against somebody is to criticize that person bitterly. Of course you don’t have to rail against a specific person; you can also rail against the government or practices you find abhorrent. Hopefully, you don’t find yourself railing against the vocabulary that you are forced to learn for the GRE.


Whether it appears as an adjective or a noun this word is all about wisdom. A sage (n.) is a deeply wise man. The word has an old time-y connotation, conjuring up Biblical prophets with beards down to their ankles. Sage as an adjective generally applies to anyone or anything displaying wisdom. No long beards required.


The meaning I’m drawing on here is similar to despicable. To describe somebody’s motives as “base” means that person is ignoble and has no sense of moral scruples. Were somebody whom you consider a friend to spread malicious lies about you, just to make themselves look good, you’d consider their behavior base.

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7 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Watch Your Four-Letter Words

  1. Prasad N R April 1, 2018 at 4:22 am #

    I aver that GRE verbal looks like a ruse. It is difficult. But, this is the reason why it is fantastic – it gives me an opportunity to learn English thoroughly instead of skimming through basic aspects. It also gives me an opportunity to go through fantastic videos like those of Chris’ without making me feel guilty about wasting time while having fun.

  2. Manish June 17, 2015 at 9:42 am #


    Can you do the review of the 5lb second edition please?

    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette Jung June 17, 2015 at 11:27 am #

      Manish, we’ll have a review of it up very soon! Check back on the blog next week :).

  3. Sush June 15, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    Hi Chris!

    I wrote the GRE today and scored a 324 (166 v + 158 q). While I’m happy about verbal, I’m very disappointed with Quant because I’m good at Math and did way better in my practice tests. I’m looking to apply to a masters in Applied Economics or Public Policy. I have an integrated masters in Economics with an 8.4 CGPA and a year of research experience. Do you think I should give the GRE again to up my quant score?

  4. Kalp Khamesra June 14, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    Hey Chris,
    Your blog’s have been really, really informative. I am planning to take the GRE roughly around 15th August, so I have around 60 days for it. This is my second attempt, as I got 310(160q,150v) on my first attempt.
    Right now, I am stressing just on Manhattan word list and hope to complete the 1000 MGRE flash card words by July 1. And then I want to dedicate 45 days just for practice.

    Please tell whether this is a right strategy to follow. Also, Can you please tell me from where should I prepare for RC’s?(I got 12/20 RC right on my first attempt)

    Thanks 🙂

  5. 0811007 June 11, 2015 at 2:27 am #

    Vocab Wednesday is superb & thoroughgoing . Its always has some test of novelty. You guys are doing a magnanimous job which indeed helps lot of test takers.

  6. Jared June 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    With so many different vocab words to study from (ie. Manhattan GRE Flash Cards, Barrons, Magoosh, etc…), what would be the most advantageous method to incorporate? I am planning to study for 3-4 weeks and take the GRE. Therefore, what would be the best vocab list to learn from that is going to be the closest related to the actual vocab words on the GRE?

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