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GRE Vocab Wednesdays: From Rags to Riches

The socioeconomic divide is vast: from panhandlers who do not know where their next meal is coming from to billionaire moguls with fifty Lamborghinis in their garages. To capture this divide, the English language has a wide range of vocabulary.



If a person is begging for loose change, he or she is a mendicant. Basically, a mendicant is nothing more than a fancy name for beggar. The word ‘mendicant’  should not be confused with ‘mendacious’, which means to be deceitful, prone to lying.



Speaking of rags, a person, usually a child, dressed in such a manner is called a ragamuffin. A bonus word, but definitely not a GRE-word, is the obscure, but fun to say, tatterdemalion.



To be indigent is to impoverished and without means. Do not confuse ‘indigent’ for ‘indigenous,’ or ‘indignant.’ ‘Indigenous’ means native to a certain area. ‘Indignant’ means angry over some perceived injustice.



If you are bereft of the basic necessities in life, you are destitute. This word is a synonym with ‘indigent.’



If your are generally unkempt, your hair untidy, your clothes unwashed, then you are disheveled. True, one does not to be indigent to be disheveled. Even a millionaire can go about slovenly attired.



Speaking of millionaires, an affluent person is one who is well off. Sure, he or she does not necessarily need to own a million dollars. But if you live in a very nice part of town, and drive a luxury sedan, then you are probably affluent.



Debonair has more to do with manners than wealth, though we typically associate a debonair person, i.e., one who is elegant, stylish, and well-mannered, with wealth.



‘Opulent’ is used to describe abundant wealth and luxury. It is a word that usually reminds me of palaces. The rajahs’ palaces in India are opulent. Versailles, in France, is opulent. A useful synonym for ‘opulent’ is ‘sumptuous.’ As far as ‘sumptuous’ goes, I usually think of banquet halls filled with caviar and $500 bottles of champagne.



If you hang out at such lavish banquet halls, you’ll be likely to spot a tycoon. Similar to a mogul or magnate, a tycoon is a rich person who is usually amassed their fortune in business. The late was a tycoon, though I don’t think he frequented many opulent banquet halls.

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