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Vocabulary Double Meanings

As this past week was vocabulary, I would be remiss in not including a vocabulary word post. But, instead of a random list, I want to touch on a very important class of words – double meanings based on common words. While words like penurious and austere have double meanings, these words are already vocabulary words in themselves. Most of the time, when the GRE tests double meanings, it takes common words that have a secondary, or what I like to call hidden, definition.


We are involved in many things, from studying to socializing. For something to be involved, in terms of the GRE definition, means it is complicated, and difficult to comprehend.

The physics lecture became so involved that the undergraduate’s eyes glazed over.


Sure, many dream of the day when they can be retiring (preferably to some palatial estate with a beachfront view). The second definition does not necessarily apply to most. To be retiring is to be shy, and have the inclination to retract from company.

Nelson always was the first to leave soirees – rather than mill about with “fashionable” folk, he was retiring, and preferred the solitude of his garret.


Yes, expansive means expansive. It also means communicative, and prone to talking in a sociable manner.

After a few sips of cognac, the octogenarian shed his irascible demeanor and became expansive, speaking fondly of the “good old days”.


A moment is a point in time. We all know that definition. If something is of moment, it is significant and important (think of the word momentous).

Despite the initial hullabaloo, the play was of no great moment in Hampton’s writing career, and, within a few years, the public quickly forgot his foray into theater arts.


When the definition of this word came into existence, there were some obvious biases against the lower classes (assuming that lexicographers were not lower class). It was assumed that those from the base, or the lowest, class were without any moral principles. They were contemptible and ignoble. Hence, we have this second definition of base (the word has since dropped any connotations of lower class).

She was not so base as to begrudge the mendicant the unwanted crumbs from her dinner plate.



When reading, always be sure to look up common words if you think they are being employed differently. Many words have multiple definitions that are totally unrelated to the common meaning.

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