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GRE Vocab Wednesday: ‘Ch’oice Words

Sometimes, I wonder if I’ll run out of vocabulary words for Vocab Wednesday. After all, the number of words the GRE tests is finite—though it may not seem that way to someone facing down a 3,500-word list. For those who’ve learnt many of those words and are hoping Vocab Wed. can find yet more words, no need to worry. Using the constraint of words beginning with “ch”, I was still able to find these five morsels, only one of which has been in a previous Vocab Wednesday. (“Charlatan” is such a great word, I couldn’t pass on it.)


If you don’t know the second definition of this word, then the post title might have thrown you off a little. So, I’m here to remove any confusion by telling you that “choice” has a few other definitions: if food is choice, that food is of a high quality (truffles, wine, and escargot exude choice). More loosely speaking “choice” means excellent, and can apply to more contexts than food (though this is where we typically encounter this usage). For instance, a choice location for your home would imply that you have found some coveted real estate.

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Interestingly, “choice,” when used with word or words, means something entirely different: abusive and rude. So if you upset somebody and they have some choice words for you, you can bet he or she has said something pretty nasty. Of course, I was playing around with these multiple definitions in the title, since I’m not going to verbally abuse you.


Guarded? Don’t want to say too much in case you give something away? Well, “chary” is the word for you. A GRE synonym is circumspect, chary basically means cautious. You are not willing to take risks. You are constantly on the alert. You don’t want to get caught unawares.


I can’t imagine this every being a correct answer to a GRE question, but I can imagine it making a great distractor. He was cherubic and happy to see me. This word doesn’t mean cheerful. Instead it describes those pudgy little kids, with golden locks and rubicund cheeks, who look angelic. Indeed, a cherub is a little child angel. Where, you exclaim, would anyone actually see literal child-like angels fluttering around? Well, just head to your local museum: Renaissance Art is full of cherubs.


Not who you say you are? Pretending to be something you are not? Something that requires knowledge and expertise? Well, you may indeed very well be a charlatan. A common synonym is quack, a word that pops up in medical circles. That is, if somebody dispenses medical advice but derives his or her knowledge from Youtube videos, that person is a charlatan. Were I to pretend to the know the word charlatan, claiming I was a GRE tutor (clearly, in the same rarefied realm as an M.D.), I would be a charlatan. Luckily, I am no charlatan, GRE-wise.


Another word with a second definition, “check” means to limit the progress of something, or to keep it from growing. The assiduous gardener must always check the progress of weeds. Unchecked, weeds would devour gardens. Your progress on the GRE could be kept in check by the numerous other responsibilities you have in life.

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