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GRE Vocabulary – Don’t Be So Emotional!

Many words on the GRE pertain to a certain emotion. I would really being casting a wide net if I focused on those words. Instead, I’m going to narrow the scope a bit and focus on words that are related to an outward display of an emotion, typically sadness.



Emotive differs slightly from emotion and describes anything that causes intense emotions. Violent images, poignant movies, and a masterful novel are all emotive. It is important not to describe people as emotive. Rather something that is emotive causes an intense emotional reaction in others.



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This word does not mean demonstrate in the strict sense. It does mean to demonstrate one’s emotions outwardly. Certain cultures—as you may well know if you have ever been to Italy—are renowned for their demonstrativeness, hugging one another with gusto and gesticulating animatedly at every turn of phrase.



Those who cry during Hallmark commercials; the sobbing teen at Titanic 3-D, box of tissues in trembling hand; the forlorn housewife weeping lugubriously when one of her favorite daytime soap stars perishes; those who cry during Hallmark commercials are mawkish. In other words, they are so sentimental that they arouse disgust in others.



If somebody is too expressive in his/her positive emotions, he/she is being effusive. Effusive often implies insincerity.

She praised him effusively for his performance of the Rachmaninov concerto, though on the inside she was a little envious, realizing she would never be able to play such a difficult piece.



If you combine demonstrative and mawkish, you are close to the word ‘lugubrious.’ Someone crying in public, declaiming his/her woes is behaving lugubriously. Any overblown, theatrical display of sadness is lugubrious.



Pathos is a quality that evokes sadness. A piece of music that brings a tear to your eye, an actor whose expressions make the audience feel his sadness, or a melancholic poem are all imbued with pathos.

She injected a note of pathos into her excuse, yet I could not help but think she was acting disingenuously—hoping to elicit pity, while hiding her true intentions.


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