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GRE Vocab Wednesdays | Fiery Deb”-ate” Verbs


Over the next month, Americans are going to be fixed on the television, watching the three scheduled debates between Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton and Republican hopeful Donald Trump. Trump, known for his aggressive swagger and tendency to speak over the moderators, is likely going to go after Hillary, who is known for her sangfroid and pithy rejoinders. At the same time, Hillary will try to bait Trump so that he’ll either contradict himself or become flummoxed. In non-GRE speak: it’s going to be nasty.

In honor (or dishonor, depending on your level of cynicism) of the debates, below is a list of verbs ending in ‘ate’. None of them, given the tense nature of the debate and the starkly opposing temperaments of the candidates, has a positive connotation.


There are many words that mean ‘to criticize.’ But few carry the harsh, stinging connotation of vituperate. Therefore, you don’t want to use this word unless the situation really calls for it. But, if you want to describe someone who is yelling at another person, pointing their finger at them, telling them they did a terrible job — well, vituperate might just be the word for you. As I mentioned, Hillary is a little more imperturbable than Trump, so we’ll likely see Trump vituperating Hillary for her trade agreements or use of a private email server. But this has been a surprising election year, so don’t put it past Hillary to wave a vituperative finger at The Donald.


Like many a sport, a debate typically features somebody on the offensive and somebody on the defensive. And, like boxing, those roles can change at a moment’s notice. “Equivocate” is what somebody usually does defensively. To equivocate means to avoid answering a question directly, to waffle about the issue, even to try to change the subject. As far as equivocation goes, Hillary is the more likely candidate, especially given the grilling that Trump is likely to give her. She might deflect some of his attacks, but she is likely to equivocate on some of the more pointed ones.


When one candidate is fed up with being specific, they might just slander the other candidate. To calumniate is to make false and defamatory statements about another person. Fact checkers have shown that some of Trump’s claims are not factual. So when he digs into Hillary, there might be some substance, or he may just be calumniating her (though Hillary might indulge in some calumny herself!).


As I mentioned, who is on the defensive in a debate and who is on the offensive can change at any moment. For instance, Hillary might lampoon Trump’s penchant to “make up the facts,” accusing him of contradicting himself at every turn. Instead of defending this charge, Trump might make a counter accusation, saying that Hillary has spent the last 10 years making the country less safe. To make a counter accusation is to recriminate. The word is more commonly seen as the noun “recriminations.” Luckily, each debate features a moderator, who usually keeps the recriminations in check.

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