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GRE Vocabulary: Words Within Words

Today, I thought I’d do something a little bit more creative. Below, I’ve listed pairs of GRE words, in which one GRE word is either fully embedded in another GRE word., or the simple addition of a letter begets a different GRE word.


Élan and Mélange

Not only is élan totally ensconced in mélange, but both words also have the diacritic above the ‘e.’ Both are derived from Modern French (something those of you who studied French could probably derive yourselves).

Élan means dash or flair. Other synonyms included panache, another popular GRE word. Amélange is a mixture, usually of heterogeneous elements.

His music can be characterized as a mélange of hip-hop, reggae and soul.


Blithe and Lithe

To be blithe is to be carefree and happy. The word has a negative connotation and implies that a person being blithe is ignoring some legitimate concerns.

The tourists ambled blithely about the beach, oblivious to the news reports that the nuclear fallout was moving in their direction.

If you are lithe you are flexible. Besides this similarity the two words have nothing to do with one another. Though I suppose if you are lithe you could be very flexible on most issues and end up being blithe.


Pith and Pithy

The pith is the main part of something, the kernel. The pith of the matter, for instance, is the heart of the matter. Pithy means terse, to the point and carries with it the connotation of forcefulness.
Shakespeare is known for his pithy utterances – in a few words he can convey more than a 19th century tome.


Craven and Rave

To be craven means to be so cowardly that others want to execrate you (or at least pelt you with moldy vegetables).  This is one of GRE’s favorite words. People naturally assume it means craving, though the two are entirely unrelated.

Speaking of entirely unrelated, burrowed within craven (perhaps trying to avoid the vegetables) is the word rave. To rave can have a few definitions – to speak in a way suggesting that you’ve completely lost your mind, or to speak glowingly about something (though I suppose when some critics rave about certain movies I can’t help but think they’ve lost their minds).


Facet and Facetious

Here we add the familiar suffix –ious. In doing so, we completely change the word preceding it. A facet is a particular trait or aspect of something (think of somebody who is multifaceted – he or she is diverse.

Facetious means joking around, usually about serious matters. It’s not quite as extreme as flippant, which connotes disrespect. Facetious connotes more silly fun and, though such silliness may deal with serious matters, the present company understands that no real disrespect is intended.

Wow, with such a nuanced definition, facetious, I must say, is quite a multifaceted word.


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