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GRE Vocab Wednesday: “In” Words

Here is but only a tiny sliver of words beginning with “in” that you can expect to see on the test. How many of the words below do you confidently know?




Not to be confused with “insight” – a very similar sounding word – incite means to stir up or provoke. Usually the context isn’t just one person getting an upset, but a large group of people who usually take to the streets smashing things. That’s why we often hear this word coupled with riots or any large-scale violence.


Likely to drop the ball? And I mean literally. Those who are inept are clumsy and unskilled. They won’t be able to catch a ball, and they’ll tend to knock things over. More generally inept can mean unskilled. An actor or a musician delivering an inept performance will likely elicit boos from the audience. Interestingly, the opposite of inept is adept. More interestingly, perhaps, is the fact that the words come from different roots.


Meant to point out that something is silly or foolish, inane typically modifies words relating to speaking: comment, chatter, conversation, remark, etc. Inane chatter is something all around us, depending on how much of a curmudgeon you are. Yet even the most magnanimous of us will have trouble denying that inane chatter is only a television switch away.


Sure, this word can refer to fragrant, burning sticks redolent of spice and. But there is a second—very different meaning—that might show up on the GRE: to make someone really angry, so that’s you are setting them on fire (figuratively, of course). In that sense, the two definitions are related: they both deal with setting things on fire, one figuratively the other literally. But don’t let the GRE incense you—though at some point it probably will—by forgetting this distinction.


While this might sound like a small pen, or any cute, diminutive thing, an inkling is something far more abstract. You know that little tingly feeling you get in your stomach when you think you think you are on to something? That’s an inkling: a slight suspicion or sense that something is going to happen.

Barry had an inkling that the stock market was going to crash, so he sold off many of his stocks—good thing, as weeks later the market did indeed crash.


You would be forgiven if you thought that this word related to thinking, because the ‘cognit’ looks like it relates to cognition. But an incognito is not a dunce, incapable of sustained thought. The ‘cognit’ in the word is similar to the same root in the word recognize. As such, it means that you can’t be recognized. In other words, if you want to make sure that nobody recognizes you—you know, like any famous person—you travel incognito: dark, bug-eyed sunglasses, an overly large hat, and no makeup (or four days stubble if you are a man).


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