Cracking the GRE Premium Edition (2016)

Part II
How to Crack the Verbal Section

3The Geography of the Verbal Section

Chapter 8

Vocabulary for the GRE

Words, words, words. That’s what you’ll find in this chapter. The following pages contain the Hit Parade, a list of some of the most common words that appear on the GRE. There are also some handy tips on studying and learning new vocabulary words and exercises to test your progress. Be advised, though, that the words in the chapter ahead are just a starting point. As you prepare for your GRE, keep your eyes open for words you don’t know and look them up!


As much as ETS would like to claim that the GRE doesn’t rely much on vocabulary, the simple fact remains that many of the questions, answer choices, and reading passages contain some difficult vocabulary. You can’t improve your score substantially without increasing your vocabulary. You might think that studying vocabulary is the most boring part of preparing for the GRE, but it’s one of the most important, and it’s also the one part of GRE preparation that’s actually useful to you beyond the confines of the test itself. And the more words that you recognize (and know the meaning of) on the test, the easier it will be. So there’s no avoiding the importance of vocabulary to your success on the GRE. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to fairly test someone’s vocabulary on a standardized test. If you memorize 1,000 words and on test day none of those words appear, does that mean you have a bad vocabulary? Of course not—it just means that you’ve been victimized by the limitations of standardized testing.

This doesn’t mean that you should take a defeatist attitude toward learning vocabulary! Even if you have only a few weeks before your test, you can still expand your vocabulary and increase your prospects of doing better on the GRE. One thing you have working in your favor is the fact that ETS loves to do the same things over and over. The words we’ve collected for you in this chapter are the words that appear most frequently on the GRE. So let’s get started learning some new words!

Improving your vocabulary
is one of the most
important things you
can do to improve your
Verbal score.


Get used to looking up words. ETS uses words that it believes the average college-educated adult should know. These words show up in newspaper and magazine articles, in books, and in textbooks. If you see a word you don’t know while studying for the GRE or elsewhere, it’s probably a good GRE word. Look it up and make a flash card. Dictionaries will give you the pronunciation, while digital apps can provide quick, handy look-ups for new words. Looking up words is a habit. You may have to force yourself to do it in the beginning, but it becomes more natural over time. Many of the techniques in this book will help you on the GRE but don’t have much relevance in day-to-day life, but a great vocabulary and good vocabulary habits will add a tremendous amount of value to your graduate school career and beyond.

Flashcards From Us

You can make your own
flashcards or you can buy
Essential GRE Vocabulary
flashcards from us!

Learning New Words

How will you remember all the new words you should learn for the test? By developing a routine for learning new words. Here are some tips.

  • To learn words that you find on your own, get into the habit of reading good books, magazines, and newspapers. Start paying attention to words you come across for which you don’t know the definition. You might be tempted to just skip these, as usual, but train yourself to write them down and look them up.
  • When you look up the word, say it out loud, being careful to pronounce it correctly. This will help you remember it.
  • When you look up a word in the dictionary, don’t assume that the first definition is the only one you need to know. The first definition may be an archaic one, or one that applies only in a particular context, so scan through all the definitions.
  • Now that you’ve learned the dictionary’s definition of a new word, restate it in your own words. You’ll find it much easier to remember a word’s meaning if you make it your own.
  • Mnemonics—Use your imagination to create a mental image to fix the new word in your mind. For example, if you’re trying to remember the word voracious, which means having an insatiable appetite for an activity or pursuit, picture an incredibly hungry boar, eating huge piles of food. The voracious boar will help you to recall the meaning of the word. The crazier the image, the better.
  • Keep a vocabulary notebook, or make a file with a list of new vocabulary words and put it on your desktop. Simply having a notebook with you will remind you to be on the lookout for new words, and using it will help you to remember the ones you encounter. Writing something down also makes it easier to memorize. Jot down the word when you find it, note its pronunciation and definition (in your own words) when you look it up, and jot down your mnemonic or mental image. You might also copy the sentence in which you originally found the word, to remind yourself of how the word looks in context.
  • Do the same thing with flash cards. Write the word on one side and the pronunciation, the meaning, and perhaps a mental image on the other. Stick five or six of your flash cards in your pocket every morning and use them whenever you can. Stuck on a delayed subway train? Look at your flashcards. Standing in a long line at the bank? Look at your flashcards. Sick of engaging in small talk with boring acquaintances? Look at your flashcards. (Only kidding about that last one.)
  • Use your new word every chance you get. Make it part of your life. Insert it into your speech at every opportunity. Developing a powerful vocabulary requires lots of exercise.
  • Learn word roots. Many words share similar origins. By learning these common roots, you’ll be better able to work with words you’ve never seen before. A good dictionary should list the origin and roots of the words in it.

Learn new words little by
little; don’t try to learn a
ton at once!


You should start your vocabulary work by studying the Hit Parade, which is a list we’ve compiled of some of the most frequently tested words on the GRE. We put together this list by analyzing released GREs and keeping tabs on the test to make sure that these words are still popular with ETS. At the very least, answer choices that contain Hit Parade words make very good guesses on questions for which you don’t know the answer. Each word on the Hit Parade is followed by the part of speech and a brief definition for the word. Some of the words on this list may have other definitions as well, but the definitions we have given are the ones most likely to appear on the GRE.

We’ve broken the Hit Parade down into four groups of about 75 words each. Don’t try to learn all four groups of words at once—work with one list at a time. Write the words and their definitions down in a notebook or on flash cards. It is very important to write them down yourself, because this will help you remember them. Just glancing through the lists printed in this book won’t be nearly as effective. Before doing the exercises for each group, spend some time studying and learning the words first. Then use the exercises as a way to test yourself. Answers for the matching exercises appear in Part V of this book.

Hit Parade Group 1

abscond (verb)

to depart clandestinely; to steal off and hide

aberrant (adj.)

deviating from the norm (noun form: aberration)

alacrity (noun)

eager and enthusiastic willingness

anomaly (noun)

deviation from the normal order, form, or rule; abnormality (adj. form: anomalous)

approbation (noun)

an expression of approval or praise

arduous (adj.)

strenuous, taxing; requiring significant effort

assuage (verb)

to ease or lessen; to appease or pacify

audacious (adj.)

daring and fearless; recklessly bold (noun form: audacity)

austere (adj.)

without adornment; bare; severely simple; ascetic (noun form: austerity)

axiomatic (adj.)

taken as a given; possessing self-evident truth (noun form: axiom)

canonical (adj.)

following or in agreement with accepted, traditional standards (noun form: canon)

capricious (adj.)

inclined to change one’s mind impulsively; erratic, unpredictable

censure (verb)

to criticize severely; to officially rebuke

chicanery (noun)

trickery or subterfuge

connoisseur (noun)

an informed and astute judge in matters of taste; expert

convoluted (adj.)

complex or complicated

disabuse (verb)

to undeceive; to set right

discordant (adj.)

conflicting; dissonant or harsh in sound

disparate (adj.)

fundamentally distinct or dissimilar

effrontery (noun)

extreme boldness; presumptuousness

eloquent (adj.)

well-spoken, expressive, articulate (noun form: eloquence)

enervate (verb)

to weaken; to reduce in vitality

ennui (noun)

dissatisfaction and restlessness resulting from boredom or apathy

equivocate (verb)

to use ambiguous language with a deceptive intent (adj. form: equivocal)

erudite (adj.)

very learned; scholarly (noun form: erudition)

exculpate (verb)

exonerate; to clear of blame

exigent (adj.)

urgent, pressing; requiring immediate action or attention

extemporaneous (adj.)   

improvised; done without preparation

filibuster (noun)

intentional obstruction, esp. using prolonged speechmaking to delay legislative action

fulminate (verb)

to loudly attack or denounce

ingenuous (adj.)

artless; frank and candid; lacking in sophistication

inured (adj.)

accustomed to accepting something undesirable

irascible (adj.)

easily angered; prone to temperamental outbursts

laud (verb)

to praise highly (adj. form: laudatory)

lucid (adj.)

clear; easily understood

magnanimity (noun)

the quality of being generously noble in mind and heart, esp. in forgiving (adj. form: magnanimous)

martial (adj.)

associated with war and the armed forces

mundane (adj.)

of the world; typical of or concerned with the ordinary

nascent (adj.)

coming into being; in early developmental stages

nebulous (adj.)

vague; cloudy; lacking clearly defined form

neologism (noun)

a new word, expression, or usage; the creation or use of new words or senses

noxious (adj.)

harmful, injurious

obtuse (adj.)

lacking sharpness of intellect; not clear or precise in thought or expression

obviate (verb)

to anticipate and make unnecessary

onerous (adj.)

troubling; burdensome

paean (noun)

a song or hymn of praise and thanksgiving

parody (noun)

a humorous imitation intended for ridicule or comic effect, esp. in literature and art

perennial (adj.)

recurrent through the year or many years; happening repeatedly

perfidy (noun)

intentional breach of faith; treachery (adj. form: perfidious)

perfunctory (adj.)

cursory; done without care or interest

perspicacious (adj.)

acutely perceptive; having keen discernment (noun form: perspicacity)

prattle (verb)

to babble meaninglessly; to talk in an empty and idle manner

precipitate (adj.)

acting with excessive haste or impulse

precipitate (verb)

to cause or happen before anticipated or required

predilection (noun)

a disposition in favor of something; preference

prescience (noun)

foreknowledge of events; knowing of events prior to their occurring (adj. form: prescient)

prevaricate (verb)

to deliberately avoid the truth; to mislead

qualms (noun)

misgivings; reservations; causes for hesitancy

recant (verb)

to retract, esp. a previously held belief

refute (verb)

to disprove; to successfully argue against

relegate (verb)

to forcibly assign, esp. to a lower place or position

reticent (adj.)

quiet; reserved; reluctant to express thoughts and feelings

solicitous (adj.)

concerned and attentive; eager

sordid (adj.)

characterized by filth, grime, or squalor; foul

sporadic (adj.)

occurring only occasionally, or in scattered instances

squander (verb)

to waste by spending or using irresponsibly

static (adj.)

not moving, active, or in motion; at rest

stupefy (verb)

to stun, baffle, or amaze

stymie (verb)

to block; to thwart

synthesis (noun)

the combination of parts to make a whole (verb form: synthesize)

torque (noun)

a force that causes rotation

tortuous (adj.)

winding, twisting; excessively complicated

truculent (adj.)

fierce and cruel; eager to fight

veracity (noun)

truthfulness, honesty

virulent (adj.)

extremely harmful or poisonous; bitterly hostile or antagonistic

voracious (adj.)

having an insatiable appetite for an activity or pursuit; ravenous

waver (verb)

to move to and fro; to sway; to be unsettled in opinion

Group 1 Exercises

Match the following words to their definitions. Answers can be found in Part V.


improvised; without preparation




a newly coined word or expression




a song of joy and praise




to praise highly




truthfulness; honesty




artless; frank and candid




associated with war and the military




to retract a belief or statement




cursory; done without care or interest




troubling; burdensome




to criticize; to officially rebuke




winding; twisting; complicated




to block; to thwart




clear; easily understood



Hold Up and Break

Did you just tackle Hit
Parade Group 1? Before
you jump into Group 2,
give yourself a break. Take
a walk, get some air, eat
a snack. Let the Group 1
words sink in before you
dive into Group 2.

Hit Parade Group 2

abate (verb)

to lessen in intensity or degree

accolade (noun)

an expression of praise

adulation (noun)

excessive praise; intense adoration

aesthetic (adj.)

dealing with, appreciative of, or responsive to art or the beautiful

ameliorate (verb)    

to make better or more tolerable

ascetic (noun)

one who practices rigid self-denial, esp. as an act of religious devotion

avarice (noun)

greed, esp. for wealth (adj. form: avaricious)

axiom (noun)

a universally recognized principle (adj. form: axiomatic)

burgeon (verb)

to grow rapidly or flourish

bucolic (adj.)

rustic and pastoral; characteristic of rural areas and their inhabitants

cacophony (noun)

harsh, jarring, discordant sound; dissonance (adj. form: cacophonous)

canon (noun)

an established set of principles or code of laws, often religious in nature (adj. form: canonical)

castigation (noun)

severe criticism or punishment (verb form: castigate)

catalyst (noun)

a substance that accelerates the rate of a chemical reaction without itself changing; a person or thing that causes change

caustic (adj.)

burning or stinging; causing corrosion

chary (adj.)

wary; cautious; sparing

cogent (adj.)

appealing forcibly to the mind or reason; convincing

complaisance (noun)

the willingness to comply with the wishes of others (adj. form: complaisant)

contentious (adj.)

argumentative; quarrelsome; causing controversy or disagreement

contrite (adj.)

regretful; penitent; seeking forgiveness (noun form: contrition)

culpable (adj.)

deserving blame (noun form: culpability)

dearth (noun)

smallness of quantity or number; scarcity; a lack

demur (verb)

to question or oppose

didactic (adj.)

intended to teach or instruct

discretion (noun)

cautious reserve in speech; ability to make responsible decisions (adj. form: discreet)

disinterested (adj.)

free of bias or self-interest; impartial

dogmatic (adj.)

expressing a rigid opinion based on unproved or improvable principles (noun form: dogma)

ebullience (noun)

the quality of lively or enthusiastic expression of thoughts and feelings (adj. form: ebullient)

eclectic (adj.)

composed of elements drawn from various sources

elegy (noun)

a mournful poem, esp. one lamenting the dead (adj. form: elegiac)

emollient (adj.)/ (noun)

soothing, esp. to the skin; making less harsh; mollifying; an agent that softens or smoothes the skin

empirical (adj.)

based on observation or experiment

enigmatic (adj.)

mysterious; obscure; difficult to understand (noun form: enigma)

ephemeral (adj.)

brief; fleeting

esoteric (adj.)

intended for or understood by a small, specific group

eulogy (noun)

a speech honoring the dead (verb form: eulogize)

exonerate (verb)

to remove blame

facetious (adj.)

playful; humorous

fallacy (noun)

an invalid or incorrect notion; a mistaken belief (adj. form: fallacious)

furtive (adj.)

marked by stealth; covert; surreptitious

gregarious (adj.)

sociable; outgoing; enjoying the company of other people

harangue (verb)/(noun)   

to deliver a forceful or angry speech; ranting speech or writing.

heretical (adj.)

violating accepted dogma or convention (noun form: heresy)

hyperbole (noun)

an exaggerated statement, often used as a figure of speech (adj. form: hyperbolic)

impecunious (adj.)    

lacking funds; without money

incipient (adj.)

beginning to come into being or to become apparent

inert (adj.)

unmoving; lethargic; sluggish

innocuous (adj.)

harmless; causing no damage

intransigent (adj.)

refusing to compromise (noun form: intransigence)

inveigle (verb)

to obtain by deception or flattery

morose (adj.)

sad; sullen; melancholy

odious (adj.)

evoking intense aversion or dislike

opaque (adj.)

impenetrable by light; not reflecting light

oscillation (noun)

the act or state of swinging back and forth with a steady, uninterrupted rhythm (verb form: oscillate)

penurious (adj.)

penny-pinching; excessively thrifty; ungenerous

pernicious (adj.)

extremely harmful in a way that is not easily seen or noticed

peruse (verb)

to examine with great care (noun form: perusal)

pious (adj.)

extremely reverent or devout; showing strong religious devotion (noun form: piety)

precursor (noun)

one that precedes and indicates or announces another

preen (verb)

to dress up; to primp; to groom oneself with elaborate care

prodigious (adj.)

abundant in size, force, or extent; extraordinary

prolific (adj.)

producing large volumes or amounts; productive

putrefy (verb)

to rot; to decay and give off a foul odor (adj. form: putrid)

quaff (verb)

to drink deeply

quiescence (noun)

stillness; motionlessness; quality of being at rest (adj. form: quiescent)

redoubtable (adj.)

awe-inspiring; worthy of honor

sanction (noun)/(verb)

authoritative permission or approval; a penalty intended to enforce compliance; to give permission or authority

satire (noun)

a literary work that ridicules or criticizes a human vice through humor or derision (adj. form: satirical)

squalid (adj.)

sordid; wretched and dirty as from neglect (noun form: squalor)

stoic (adj.)

indifferent to or unaffected by pleasure or pain; steadfast (noun form: stoicism)

supplant (verb)

to take the place of; to supersede

torpid (adj.)

lethargic; sluggish; dormant (noun form: torpor)

ubiquitous (adj.)

existing everywhere at the same time; constantly encountered; widespread

urbane (adj.)

sophisticated; refined; elegant (noun form: urbanity)

vilify (verb)

to defame; to characterize harshly

viscous (adj.)

thick; sticky (noun form: viscosity)

Group 2 Exercises

Match the following words to their definitions. Answers can be found in Part V.


brief; fleeting




a forceful or angry speech




arousing strong dislike or aversion




to free from blame or responsibility




arousing fear or awe; worthy of honor; formidable




unexpectedly harmful




to drink deeply




stinging; corrosive; sarcastic; biting




impressively great in size, force, or extent; enormous




greed; hunger for money




unmoving; lethargic




impartial; unbiased




lack; scarcity




to win over by deception, coaxing or flattery



Break Time!

How did you do in
Group 2? Take a moment
to relax and let your mind
rest before diving into
Group 3. Remember to do
this between each group
of words so you don’t
overload your brain!

Hit Parade Group 3

acumen (noun)

keen, accurate judgment or insight

adulterate (verb)

to reduce purity by combining with inferior ingredients

amalgamate (verb)

to combine several elements into a whole (noun form: amalgamation)

archaic (adj.)

outdated; associated with an earlier, perhaps more primitive, time

aver (verb)

to state as a fact; to declare or assert

bolster (verb)

to provide support or reinforcement

bombastic (adj.)

pompous; grandiloquent (noun form: bombast)

diatribe (noun)

a harsh denunciation

dissemble (verb)

to disguise or conceal; to mislead

eccentric (adj.)

departing from norms or conventions

endemic (adj.)

characteristic of or often found in a particular locality, region, or people

evanescent (adj.)

tending to disappear like vapor; vanishing

exacerbate (verb)

to make worse or more severe

fervent (adj.)

greatly emotional or zealous (noun form: fervor)

fortuitous (adj.)

happening by accident or chance

germane (adj.)

relevant to the subject at hand; appropriate in subject matter

grandiloquence (noun)    

pompous speech or expression (adj. form: grandiloquent)

hackneyed (adj.)

rendered trite or commonplace by frequent usage

halcyon (adj.)

calm and peaceful

hedonism (noun)

devotion to pleasurable pursuits, esp. to the pleasures of the senses (a hedonist is someone who pursues pleasure)

hegemony (noun)

the consistent dominance of one state or group over others

iconoclast (noun)

one who attacks or undermines traditional conventions or institutions

idolatrous (adj.)

given to intense or excessive devotion to something (noun form: idolatry)

impassive (adj.)

revealing no emotion

imperturbable (adj.)

marked by extreme calm, impassivity, and steadiness

implacable (adj.)

not capable of being appeased or significantly changed

impunity (noun)

immunity from punishment or penalty

inchoate (adj.)

in an initial stage; not fully formed

infelicitous (adj.)

unfortunate; inappropriate

insipid (adj.)

lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate, or challenge

loquacious (adj.)

extremely talkative (noun form: loquacity)

luminous (adj.)

characterized by brightness and the emission of light

malevolent (adj.)

having or showing often vicious ill will, spite, or hatred (noun form: malevolence)

malleable (adj.)

capable of being shaped or formed; tractable; pliable

mendacity (noun)

the condition of being untruthful; dishonesty (adj. form: mendacious)

meticulous (adj.)

characterized by extreme care and precision; attentive to detail

misanthrope (noun)

one who hates all other humans (adj. form: misanthropic)

mitigate (verb)

to make or become less severe or intense; to moderate

obdurate (adj.)

unyielding; hardhearted; intractable

obsequious (adj.)

exhibiting a fawning attentiveness

occlude (verb)

to obstruct or block

opprobrium (noun)

disgrace; contempt; scorn

pedagogy (noun)

the profession or principles of teaching, or instructing

pedantic (adj.)

overly concerned with the trivial details of learning or education; show-offish about one’s knowledge

penury (noun)

poverty; destitution

pervasive (adj.)

having the tendency to permeate or spread throughout

pine (verb)

to yearn intensely; to languish; to lose vigor

pirate (verb)

to illegally use or reproduce

pith (noun)

the essential or central part

pithy (adj.)

precise and brief

placate (verb)

to appease; to calm by making concessions

platitude (noun)

a superficial remark, esp. one offered as meaningful

plummet (verb)

to plunge or drop straight down

polemical (adj.)

controversial; argumentative

prodigal (adj.)

recklessly wasteful; extravagant; profuse; lavish

profuse (adj.)

given or coming forth abundantly; extravagant

proliferate (verb)

to grow or increase swiftly and abundantly

queries (noun)

questions; inquiries; doubts in the mind; reservations

querulous (adj.)

prone to complaining or grumbling; peevish

rancorous (adj.)

characterized by bitter, long-lasting resentment (noun form: rancor)

recalcitrant (adj.)

obstinately defiant of authority; difficult to manage

repudiate (verb)

to refuse to have anything to do with; to disown

rescind (verb)

to invalidate; to repeal; to retract

reverent (adj.)

marked by, feeling, or expressing a feeling of profound awe and respect (noun form: reverence)

rhetoric (noun)

the art or study of effective use of language for communication and persuasion

salubrious (adj.)

promoting health or well-being

solvent (adj.)

able to meet financial obligations; able to dissolve another substance

specious (adj.)

seeming true, but actually being fallacious; misleadingly attractive; plausible but false

spurious (adj.)

lacking authenticity or validity; false; counterfeit

subpoena (noun)

a court order requiring appearance and/or testimony

succinct (adj.)

brief; concise

superfluous (adj.)

exceeding what is sufficient or necessary

surfeit (verb)

an overabundant supply; excess; to feed or supply to excess (noun form: a surfeit of supplies)

tenacity (noun)

the quality of adherence or persistence to something valued; persistent determination (adj. form: tenacious)

tenuous (adj.)

having little substance or strength; flimsy; weak

tirade (noun)

a long and extremely critical speech; a harsh denunciation

transient (adj.)

fleeting; passing quickly; brief

zealous (adj.)

fervent; ardent; impassioned, devoted to a cause (a zealot is a zealous person)

Group 3 Exercises

Match the following words to their definitions. Answers can be found in Part V.


brief; concise; tersely cogent




prone to complaining; whining




fawning; ingratiating




marked by bitter, deep-seated resentment




controversial; argumentative




dominance of one state or group


prodigal over others


uninteresting; tasteless; flat; dull




thin; flimsy; of little substance




excess; overindulgence




wasteful; recklessly extravagant




to appease; to pacify with concessions




to assert; to declare; to allege;


evanescent to state as fact


pompous; grandiloquent




tending to vanish like vapor



What’s Your Strategy?

Do you find flashcards
helpful? Or do you prefer
word lists? Or smartphone
apps? Figure out the
strategy that works best
for you when it comes to
learning vocabulary and
stick to it!

Hit Parade Group 4

acerbic (adj.)

having a sour or bitter taste or character; sharp; biting

aggrandize (verb)

to increase in intensity, power, influence, or prestige

alchemy (noun)

a medieval science aimed at the transmutation of metals, esp. base metals into gold (an alchemist is one who practices alchemy)

amenable (adj.)

agreeable; responsive to suggestion

anachronism (noun)    

something or someone out of place in terms of historical or chronological context

astringent (adj.)

having a tightening effect on living tissue; harsh; severe; something with a tightening effect on tissue

contiguous (adj.)

sharing a border; touching; adjacent

convention (noun)

a generally agreed-upon practice or attitude

credulous (adj.)

tending to believe too readily; gullible (noun form: credulity)

cynicism (noun)

an attitude or quality of belief that all people are motivated by selfishness (adj. form: cynical)

decorum (noun)

polite or appropriate conduct or behavior (adj. form: decorous)

derision (noun)

scorn, ridicule, contemptuous treatment (adj. form: derisive; verb form: deride)

desiccate (verb)

to dry out or dehydrate; to make dry or dull

dilettante (noun)

one with an amateurish or superficial interest in the arts or a branch of knowledge

disparage (verb)

to slight or belittle

divulge (verb)

to disclose something secret

fawn (verb)

to flatter or praise excessively

flout (verb)

to show contempt for, as in a rule or convention

garrulous (adj.)

pointlessly talkative; talking too much

glib (adj.)

marked by ease or informality; nonchalant; lacking in depth; superficial

hubris (noun)

overbearing presumption or pride; arrogance

imminent (adj.)

about to happen; impending

immutable (adj.)

not capable of change

impetuous (adj.)

hastily or rashly energetic; impulsive and vehement

indifferent (adj.)

having no interest or concern; showing no bias or prejudice

inimical (adj.)

damaging; harmful; injurious

intractable (adj.)

not easily managed or directed; stubborn; obstinate

intrepid (adj.)

steadfast and courageous

laconic (adj.)

using few words; terse

maverick (noun)

an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party

mercurial (adj.)

characterized by rapid and unpredictable change in mood

mollify (verb)

to calm or soothe; to reduce in emotional intensity

neophyte (noun)

a recent convert; a beginner; novice

obfuscate (verb)

to deliberately obscure; to make confusing

obstinate (adj.)

stubborn; hard-headed; uncompromising

ostentatious (adj.)

characterized by or given to pretentious display; showy

pervade (verb)

to permeate throughout (adj. form: pervasive)

phlegmatic (adj.)

calm; sluggish; unemotional

plethora (noun)

an overabundance; a surplus

pragmatic (adj.)

practical rather than idealistic

presumptuous (adj.)

overstepping due bounds (as of propriety or courtesy); taking liberties

pristine (adj.)

pure; uncorrupted; clean

probity (noun)

adherence to highest principles; complete and confirmed integrity; uprightness

proclivity (noun)

a natural predisposition or inclination

profligate (adj.)

excessively wasteful; recklessly extravagant (noun form: profligacy)

propensity (noun)

a natural inclination or tendency; penchant

prosaic (adj.)

dull; lacking in spirit or imagination

pungent (adj.)

characterized by a strong, sharp smell or taste

quixotic (adj.)

foolishly impractical; marked by lofty romantic ideals

quotidian (adj.)

occurring or recurring daily; commonplace

rarefy (verb)

to make or become thin, less dense; to refine

recondite (adj.)

hidden; concealed; difficult to understand; obscure

refulgent (adj.)

radiant; shiny; brilliant

renege (verb)

to fail to honor a commitment; to go back on a promise

sedulous (adj.)

diligent; persistent; hard-working

shard (noun)

a piece of broken pottery or glass

soporific (adj.)

causing drowsiness; tending to induce sleep

sparse (adj.)

thin; not dense; arranged at widely spaced intervals

spendthrift (noun)

one who spends money wastefully

subtle (adj.)

not obvious; elusive; difficult to discern

tacit (adj.)

implied; not explicitly stated

terse (adj.)

brief and concise in wording

tout (verb)

to publicly praise or promote

trenchant (adj.)

sharply perceptive; keen; penetrating

unfeigned (adj.)

genuine; not false or hypocritical

untenable (adj.)

indefensible; not viable; uninhabitable

vacillate (verb)

to waver indecisively between one course of action or opinion and another

variegated (adj.)

multicolored; characterized by a variety of patches of different color

vexation (noun)

annoyance; irritation ( verb form: vex)

vigilant (adj.)

alertly watchful (noun form: vigilance)

vituperate (verb)

to use harsh condemnatory language; to abuse or censure severely or abusively; to berate

volatile (adj.)

readily changing to a vapor; changeable; fickle; explosive (noun form: volatility)

Group 4 Exercises

Match the following words to their definitions. Answers can be found in Part V.


acid or biting; bitter in taste or tone




sleep-inducing; causing drowsiness




a surplus; an overabundance




one with superficial interest in a subject




arrogance; overbearing pride




sharing a border; touching; adjacent




talking too much; rambling




something out of place in history or chronology




difficult to understand; obscure; hidden




dull; unimaginative; ordinary




unemotional; calm




stubborn; obstinate; difficult to manage or govern




condemn with harsh, abusive words; berate




foolishly impractical; marked by lofty ideals




So you’ve finished the Hit Parade and you’re now the master of many more words than you were before. What to do next? Why, go beyond the Hit Parade of course! The Hit Parade was just the beginning. To maximize your score on the GRE you must be relentless in increasing your vocabulary. Don’t let up. Keep learning words until the day you sit down for the exam. The following lists of extra words don’t have exercises, so just keep working with your notebook or flash cards and get your friends to quiz you. You are a vocabulary machine!

Beyond the Hit Parade Group 1

The following list contains some of those simple-sounding words with less common secondary meanings that ETS likes to test on the GRE.


alloy (verb)

to commingle; to debase by mixing with something inferior; unalloyed means pure

appropriate (verb)

to take for one’s own use; to confiscate

arrest, arresting (verb)/(adj.)

to suspend; to engage; holding one’s attention: as in arrested adolescence, an arresting portrait

august (adj.)

majestic, venerable

bent (noun)

leaning, inclination, proclivity, tendency

broach (verb)

to bring up; to announce; to begin to talk about

brook (verb)

to tolerate; to endure; to countenance

cardinal (adj.)

major, as in cardinal sin

chauvinist (noun)

a blindly devoted patriot

color (verb)

to change as if by dyeing, i.e., to distort, gloss, or affect (usually the first)

consequential (adj.)    

pompous, self-important (primary definitions are: logically following; important)

damp (verb)

to diminish the intensity or check the vibration of a sound

die (noun)

a tool used for shaping, as in a tool-and-die shop

essay (verb)

to test or try; to attempt; to experiment

exact (verb)

to demand; to call for; to require; to take

fell (verb)

to cause to fall by striking

fell (adj.)

inhumanly cruel

flag (verb)

to sag or droop; to become spiritless; to decline

flip (adj.)

sarcastic, impertinent, as in flippant: a flip remark

ford (verb)

to wade across the shallow part of a river or stream

grouse (verb)

to complain or grumble

guy (noun)

a rope, cord, or cable attached to something as a brace or guide; to steady or reinforce using a guy: Think guide. (verb form: guyed, guying)

intimate (verb)

to imply, suggest, or insinuate

list (verb)

to tilt or lean to one side

lumber (verb)

to move heavily and clumsily

meet (adj.)

fitting, proper

milk (verb)

to exploit; to squeeze every last ounce of

mince (verb)

to pronounce or speak affectedly; to euphemize, to speak too carefully. Also, to take tiny steps; to tiptoe

nice (adj.)

exacting, fastidious, extremely precise

occult (adj.)

hidden, concealed, beyond comprehension

pedestrian (adj.)

commonplace, trite, unremarkable, quotidian

pied (adj.)

multicolored, usually in blotches

pine (verb)

to lose vigor (as through grief); to yearn

plastic (adj.)

moldable, pliable, not rigid

pluck (noun)

courage, spunk, fortitude

prize (verb)

to pry, to press or force with a lever; something taken by force, spoils

rail (verb)

to complain about bitterly

rent (verb)

torn (past tense of rend); an opening or tear caused by such

quail (verb)

to lose courage; to turn frightened

qualify (verb)

to limit

sap (verb)

to enervate or weaken the vitality of

sap (noun)

a fool or nitwit

scurvy (adj.)

contemptible, despicable

singular (adj.)

exceptional, unusual, odd

stand (noun)

a group of trees

steep (verb)

to saturate or completely soak, as in to let a tea bag steep

strut (noun)

the supporting structural cross-part of a wing

table (verb)

to remove (as a parliamentary motion) from consideration

tender (verb)

to proffer or offer

waffle (verb)

to equivocate; to change one’s position

wag (noun)

wit, joker

Beyond the Hit Parade Group 2

abjure (verb)

to renounce or reject solemnly; to recant; to avoid

adumbrate (verb)

to foreshadow vaguely or intimate; to suggest or outline sketchily; to obscure or overshadow

anathema (noun)

a solemn or ecclesiastical (religious) curse; accursed or thoroughly loathed person or thing

anodyne (adj.)/(noun)

soothing; something that assuages or allays pain or comforts

apogee (noun)

farthest or highest point; culmination; zenith

apostate (noun)

one who abandons long-held religious or political convictions

apotheosis (noun)

deification; glorification to godliness; an exalted example; a model of excellence or perfection

asperity (noun)

severity, rigor; roughness, harshness; acrimony, irritability

asseverate (verb)

to aver, allege, or assert

assiduous (adj.)

diligent, hard-working, sedulous

augury (noun)

omen, portent

bellicose (adj.)

belligerent, pugnacious, warlike

calumniate (verb)

to slander, to make a false accusation; calumny means slander, aspersion

captious (adj.)

disposed to point out trivial faults; calculated to confuse or entrap in argument

cavil (verb)

to find fault without good reason

celerity (noun)

speed, alacrity; think accelerate

chimera (noun)

an illusion; originally, an imaginary fire-breathing she-monster

contumacious (adj.)

insubordinate, rebellious; contumely means insult, scorn, aspersion

debacle (noun)

rout, fiasco, complete failure

denouement (noun)

an outcome or solution; the unraveling of a plot

descry (verb)

to discriminate or discern

desuetude (noun)


desultory (adj.)

random; aimless; marked by a lack of plan or purpose

diaphanous (adj.)

transparent, gauzy

diffident (adj.)

reserved, shy, unassuming; lacking in self-confidence

dirge (noun)

a song of grief or lamentation

encomium (noun)

glowing and enthusiastic praise; panegyric, tribute, eulogy

eschew (verb)

to shun or avoid

excoriate (verb)

to censure scathingly, to upbraid

execrate (verb)

to denounce, to feel loathing for, to curse, to declare to be evil

exegesis (noun)

critical examination, explication

expiate (verb)

to atone or make amends for

extirpate (verb)

to destroy, to exterminate, to cut out, to exscind

fatuous (adj.)

silly, inanely foolish

fractious (adj.)

quarrelsome, rebellious, unruly, refractory, irritable

gainsay (verb)

to deny, to dispute, to contradict, to oppose

heterodox (adj.)

unorthodox, heretical, iconoclastic

imbroglio (noun)

difficult or embarrassing situation

indefatigable (adj.)

not easily exhaustible; tireless, dogged

ineluctable (adj.)

certain, inevitable

inimitable (adj.)

one of a kind, peerless

insouciant (adj.)

unconcerned, carefree, heedless

inveterate (adj.)

deep rooted, ingrained, habitual

jejune (adj.)

vapid, uninteresting, nugatory; childish, immature, puerile

lubricious (adj.)

lewd, wanton, greasy, slippery

mendicant (noun)

a beggar, supplicant

meretricious (adj.)

cheap, gaudy, tawdry, flashy, showy; attracting by false show

minatory (adj.)

menacing, threatening (reminds you of the Minotaur, a threatening creature indeed)

nadir (noun)

low point, perigee

nonplussed (adj.)

baffled, bewildered, at a loss for what to do or think

obstreperous (adj.)

noisily and stubbornly defiant, aggressively boisterous

ossified (adj.)

tending to become more rigid, conventional, sterile, and reactionary with age; literally, turned into bone

palliate (verb)

to make something seem less serious, to gloss over, to make less severe or intense

panegyric (noun)

formal praise, eulogy, encomium; panegyrical means expressing elaborate praise

parsimonious (adj.)    

cheap, miserly

pellucid (adj.)

transparent, easy to understand, limpid

peroration (noun)

the concluding part of a speech; flowery, rhetorical speech

plangent (adj.)

pounding, thundering, resounding

prolix (adj.)

long-winded, verbose; prolixity means verbosity

propitiate (verb)

to appease; to conciliate; propitious means auspicious, favorable

puerile (adj.)

childish, immature, jejune, nugatory

puissance (noun)

power, strength; puissant means powerful, strong

pusillanimous (adj.)

cowardly, craven

remonstrate (verb)

to protest, to object

sagacious (adj.)

having sound judgment; perceptive, wise; like a sage

salacious (adj.)

lustful, lascivious, bawdy

salutary (adj.)

remedial, wholesome, causing improvement

sanguine (adj.)

cheerful, confident, optimistic

saturnine (adj.)

gloomy, dark, sullen, morose

sententious (adj.)

aphoristic or moralistic; epigrammatic; tending to moralize excessively

stentorian (adj.)

extremely loud and powerful

stygian (adj.)

gloomy, dark

sycophant (noun)

toady, servile, self-seeking flatterer; parasite

tendentious (adj.)

biased; showing marked tendencies

timorous (adj.)

timid, fearful, diffident

tyro (noun)

novice, greenhorn, rank amateur

vitiate (verb)

to corrupt, to debase, to spoil, to make ineffective

voluble (adj.)

fluent, verbal, having easy use of spoken language