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Five Challenging (But Familiar) GRE Words I Bet You Don’t Know

Welcome to a new game show called “The Unusual Suspects.” Today’s unusual cast includes GRE words most may recognize but can’t quite define. Today we are going to line them up and see which ones are impostors, and which ones are the real deal!


The Rules: Select the letter next to the sentences in which the words are CORRECTLY used.

Okay, let’s play “The Unusual Suspects”!

  • In the 1970’s video games were largely inchoate, consisting of a few blinking cursors and a moving dot.
  • The newspaper benighted the firefighters for their valiant act of saving the widow from the burning house.
  • The debate became extremely heated with both sides launching vicissitudes at each other.
  • Not much of a reader, Martha, forced by her bibliophilic husband to spend an hour in a bookstore, walked randomly about the aisle, desultorily flipping through many books.
  • The students work was clearly meretricious; they not only won top prize at the science fair, but their breakthrough proved to have practical applications in quantum physics.



A, D


Okay, you had a 1 in 32 chance of answering that correctly. So give yourself a hearty pat on the back if you actually knew the correct answers. Sorry though—no money prizes in this game show!

For the other 97%, who misidentified the ”Unusual Suspects,” definition for each word can be found below.



Inchoate – not fully formed, still in its initial stages.

Benighted – ignorant, esp. through lack of opportunity.

Vicissitudes – the inevitable up and downs that accompany life.

Desultory – lacking a real plan or method; done haphazardly and without much enthusiasm

Meretricious – attractive in a cheap way; alluring but lacking real integrity. (A naughty word, ‘meretricious’ can be traced back to the Latin meretrix, which was a prostitute).


Example Sentences

Below are sentences that correctly use the words ‘benighted,’ ‘vicissitudes,’ and ‘meretricious.’

Before the Guttenberg printing press much of Europe was a benighted mass of bookless indigents.

Keenly aware of the vicissitudes of life, Mikael, at the ripe age of 60, was hardly one to fall for the meretriciousreal-estate offers that accompanied the housing market bubble.

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