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GRE Vocabulary – A Confusing Quartet

What is the difference between errant and arrant? Does to err relate to either? And if you have to run an errand are you aimless? Here is a quartet of words that you don’t want to confuse on test day.

Errant (adj.) means wandering, not sticking to a circumscribed path.

Unlike his peers, who spent their hours studying in the library, Matthew preferred errant walks through the university campus to help his brain function.

Arrant (adj.), on the other hand, means complete and utter. It usually modifies a noun with a negative connotation, e.g. liar, fool, etc.

An arrant fool, Lawrence surprised nobody when he lost all his money in a pyramid scheme that was every bit as transparent as it was corrupt.

Errand (n.) An errand is a small chore.


Maria carried out her errands with dispatch, completing most before noon.

Err (v.) to make an error.

He erred in thinking that errant and arrant were synonyms.

A Slightly Modified Sentence Completion:

Aristotle — in thinking that the heart was the seat of man’s thought.

(A) was errant

(B) erred

(C) was arrant

(D) went on an errand

Ans: (B)

Confusing though it may be, studying the difference between these words will help tremendously if you encounter them on test day.

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