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GRE Word List: The Dreaded “Imp” Vocabulary Words

An imp is a vile little creature, a small devil known for his fiendish ways. It is very apt then, that some of the trickiest, most easily confuse-able words on the GRE begin with the letters I-M-P. “Imp” is the theme for this week’s Vocab Wednesday.

When learning words such as these, words that blur together easily, causing you to think in malapropisms, you need to rely on a powerful strategy. Unfortunately, mnemonics are not nearly as effective, since “imp” words already look very similar. You may end up applying a mnemonic to the wrong word!

Instead, I recommend writing sentences. While doing so may strike some as middle-school-ish (many of us had a teacher who was fond of making us write dozens of sentences to remember vocabulary), writing sentences can be very effective with words that look very similar. For one, you force yourself to think of the word and faithfully reproduce it, letter for letter. Also, crafting a sentence using words allow you to have a better idea of how words function in context.

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Finally, when writing down sentences, do not simply look over at the word, check the definition, and cough up a sentence. Wait at least one hour after last seeing the words to write your sentence. This delay forces you to pull up the words from your head, and even if you do not get the word completely right, the process of trying to think of it will actually help you store that word into long-term memory and, just as importantly, make sure you do not confuse it with other words.



You may be tempted to think that ‘implacable’ relates to ‘place.’ However, the two words have nothing in common. If somebody is implacable, he/she is angry that he/she cannot be calmed down or soothed. Perhaps a more familiar word is ‘placate’, which means to make someone less angry. If somebody is implacable, he/she cannot be placated.



This word means to charge with wrongdoing, and usually refers to some criminal act. A second definition, and one used far less frequently, is to imply or stated something implicitly. This definition can make things doubly confusing – note the word implicit below.



If something is not directly stated/explicit, then it is implicit. Remember that the second definition of implicate is the verb-ed definition of implicit. Otherwise, implicit and implicate are very different words.



This word may sound a lot like ‘implicate’, however the two are totally unrelated. To imprecate is to curse somebody. I picture the witches in Macbeth casting their imprecations down on the foolish mortals. I picture the main character from Albert Camus’ The Stranger being implicated for the crime of murder. And hopefully, I do not picture any one casting imprecations at the imp words – but mastering them.


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