GRE Vocab Wednesday: Crazy Mnemonics

Mnemonics are memory devices that help you remember words. Essentially, you want to come up with a visual association with the word, or a creative way to remember the word based on its structure. To give you an example of the latter case, take ‘loathe’, which means to hate. If you the last four letters. ‘athe’, and you unscramble them you get ‘hate.’

Oftentimes, a visual association is best ingrained in our memories by outlandish stories. That’s right, the wackier, nuttier, and sillier the story, the more likely—in theory, at least—we are too remember the word.



Imagine you are hiking through the beautiful woods of Yosemite, California’s premier national park. The officious rangers have warned you about bears several times. Though you’re on the look out, nothing has prepared you for what you’re about to see.

As you sit on a log, blithely nibbling away at your granola bar, a very large ant scuttles towards you. The closer it gets the more you realize it is not a typical ant. Sure it has six spindly legs and three segmented body parts (all jumbo-sized, by ant proportions).

But what really makes you almost choke on your granola bar is that instead of an ant’s head the creature has a bear’s head.

You run to the nearest ranger’s station yelling, “I’ve seen something truly out of the ordinary, something very atypical. I’ve seen a bear ant.” And you truly have seen is aberrant, which means deviating from the norm, atypical. That is, “a bear ant” is aberrant.

Sadly, before you can finish your story, the park rangers handcuff and sedate you, consigning you to a padded log cabin (the park has reported some mushroom chomping ruffians rampaging through campsites).


With your most recent bonus paycheck you’ve published a tiny two-door coupe (the bonus check wasn’t that munificent). Everyday, you have an unfortunate 45-minute commute down the dreaded interstate highway. Beside potholes and possums, the interstate is a thoroughfare for the state’s truck drivers.

In your little blue coupe, you are inevitably squashed between two eighteen-wheelers. To make sure they don’t run you over, you beep frantically on your little horn. Typically, they finally move out of your way, but when they do so, they always pull up a long side you and start cursing at you. That’s right—these hirsute men pump fists and direct certain fingers your way. The truck drivers are truly truculent: eager to fight and act defiantly.

Luckily, you’ve remained unscathed over two months of driving, besides the one particularly truculent truck driver who decided that you needed to see the back of both his middle fingers.


This word doesn’t have a story. That doesn’t mean I’m without a mnemonic. First off, let me give you the definition of ‘extant’: still in existence. Many think this word means ‘extinct.’ It is actually, however, the opposite. A great way to remember it? Extant = Ex(is)tant. That is, ‘extant’ means existent.


Whenever I see this word, I think of ‘Dole’, the pineapple company. Of course, the word has nothing to do with pineapples…unless you envision the following: imagine a big juicy pineapple, and now imagine it crying hysterically, shedding big pineapple tears.

To be doleful means to be sad and mournful. Now, when you see this word just think of a big, crying pineapple.

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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

7 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Crazy Mnemonics

  1. Sharifur Rahman December 7, 2018 at 12:41 am #

    I gave my GRE exam recently and ex student of Magoosh. I used this android application for numonic technique. This app name is VocaPOwer: Mnemonic Dictionary

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 7, 2018 at 7:27 am #

      Hi Sharifur,

      Thanks for sharing! Looks like an interesting app that you can use to record your own mnemonics 😀

  2. Nikhil August 16, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    Hey Chris,
    Can you suggest me a good source online of Mnemonics for all the common GRE words?

  3. Hesam March 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Hi Chris!
    I know that this question is not proper here, anyhow I am going to lay upon you.
    What do you think about reading the renowned ”Verbal Advantage” in the following 3 months along with working on ”reading in context” those words(e.g, NY times articles). And in the last 2 or 3 month reviewing and practicing ?
    I am an EE student, so it obviates the need for putting much time on math fundamentals.
    What do u think?
    Thanks man.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

      Hi Hesam,

      This is the perfect place to ask such a question :)!

      Verbal Advantage is great! I’d say don’t worry about the last few chapters of the book, those in which the words start getting pretty obscure. You might also want to supplement the Verbal Advantage with Word Smart or Barron’s 1100.

      With in context-reading, you should do really well come three months (btw: perfect use of the word ‘obviate’ :)).

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