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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Compound Words

What do you get when you cross two common English words together? Well, in the instances below, the definition has become transmogrified into something very different from the combination of the two words would suggest. Can you guess the definitions without looking?


Imagine somebody winking to you from underneath a hood (a menacing image, no doubt). Surely, none of us would trust such a person. Perhaps not too surprisingly, ‘hoodwink’ means to deceive.

In his first 4 hours in Manhattan, Steven had been hoodwinked multiple times; even the cab had driven him around for an hour to go all of seven blocks.



The definition of this word does not relate to a bird. But like the intersecting feathers on a dove’s tail, the word dovetail means to connect or fit together harmoniously.

Despite a compelling intro, John’s essay failed to dovetail with his thesis.



No, it’s not a new Olympic event in which the participants slap their own faces, running full speed down the track. Anything that is slapdash is done in a careless manner.

His resume was done in a slapdash manner, with many unexplained gaps in his job record.



This word does not mean to being moving towards the ceiling. An upstart is any person who suddenly achieves power or wealth and begins to act arrogantly.

Recently minting a million from a favorable turn in the stock market, Joe was nothing more than an upstart, throwing his weight around at the country club.



Okay, the first word isn’t common at all, but it’s ‘sine.’ You know, ‘cosine,’ ‘sine’ and that other trigonometry stuff (don’t worry, it will not be on the ). Sinecure, of course, is not a remedy for too much trigonometry. It comes from the Latin sine cura, and means without care.

A sinecure is any job that requires very little work. You can think of it as a semiretirement.

As the son of a magnate, Bill, at the ripe age of 30, had the perfect sinecure; from his corner office suite he would have “meetings” with executives that amounted to nothing more than an occasion to uncork expensive bottles of wine. 


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