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GRE Vocab Wednesday: 5 Words You Have to Know

Often I have some overarching theme linking the words. This week, the overarching theme is simply high-frequency GRE vocabulary. So make sure you learn these before test day.


The Constitution, the American flag, George Washington—to many Americans, these three things are inviolate: they are sacred and must be safeguarded against injustice. For those who aren’t overly patriotic or nationalistic, there is usually something we consider inviolate—marriage vows, spiritual deity (or deities), Monday Night Football.


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Have to study for a massive final? Is the deadline for a major project at work looming? Need to memorize 1,000 words for that darn test? Well, all of these are onerous tasks—they are demanding and require a lot of effort. Onerous is not used to describe a person. So don’t say your boss is onerous; say the work he requires is onerous.

Whenever a task threatened to become onerous, Nigel contrived a means of making it less so: when forced to cook for a dinner party of twelve, he ordered in.


A tricky word, confound does not relate to “finding” anything. It actually has a few definitions. First off, if you expect something to happen and then you are completely confused when it doesn’t, you are confounded.

Weather forecasters predicted that January—historically the wettest month of the year—would break the drought; yet, they were confounded when only .01 inches of rain fell during the entire month.

Confound can also mean to mix up, i.e. not be able to tell two things apart.

Those with red-green color blindness often confound the two colors, sometimes thinking that a streak of mud on their arm is blood.


Need to get something from someone, but you know they probably won’t like you trying? Well, it’s time to use a little trickery, or in other words it’s time to finagle. Sometimes, when my wife has ordered something really tasty at a restaurant, I will try to finagle more bites by trying to convince her she is full and should save room for dessert. At first this ploy worked, but now she preempts such bald-faced finagling by not offering me anything in the first place.


From the Latin for health, salutary no longer means only by providing healthful benefits; anything that is beneficial is salutary. The decrease in the number of smokers is seen—at least amongst non-smokers—as a salutary effect of anti-smoking legislation. The Internet has brought a wave of salutary changes, making our lives easier by offering Google maps, Yelp reviews, and helpful blogs.

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