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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Rhyme Time with “-ine”

Words ending in “-ine” are often adjectives for animals. Hawks get accipitrine, dogs get canine, and cats get feline, to name a few. Some of these animal words take on other figurative definitions. Of course, there are other words that end with “-ine” that don’t have such a connection, but do make for possible GRE words. Below is such a mixture.


You can speak your mind, express your opinion, speak up or, if you are doing some formal writing, opine. Yep, not a really subtle word, just one that people drop in academic surroundings. So on the GRE, a scholar wouldn’t so much speak up as opine, e.g. Recent pundits, all too quick to opine on the decay of our intellectual institutes, overlook salient improvements made in college curricula and pedagogical techniques.


Lying down on one’s back is the primary definition of supine. But there is a secondary definition, one that the GRE is more likely to use: failing to act because of moral weakness. History is full of examples of a supine populace, who, instead of acting let numerous atrocities happen. One lament of the Holocaust is that such a thing could have even happened. Many argue that the world was supine and took too long to act.


Broadly speaking, this word describes a fox or anybody, I suppose, with foxlike features. A pretty limited word, so luckily there is another meaning: anybody who behaves in a cunning fashion. That definition shouldn’t be that surprising for anybody who has read many children’s stories in which the fox typically takes on a character with these qualities. Not likely to show up on the GRE, but if the test makers are being vulpine, then that may not be the case.


In a sense, an animal word as well, asinine comes from a pejorative for donkey: ass. Yep, it’s a bad word (cover the children’s ears!), but it is also a legitimate word that has been swallowed up by the much larger asinine. If you want a harsh way to describe somebody’s behavior—somebody who is acting the fool—asinine is the perfect word (and you won’t have to cover any children’s ears).


Also an animal, and also not necessarily a word that would show up on the GRE, is bovine. The word has two meanings: a cow (yes, I mean literally), or a slow-witted person (to be so lexically maligned—poor cows). Probably not a nice way to describe somebody but if you are feeling really tired or under the weather, you can refer to yourself as being bovine (if you are into that whole self-deprecating shtick. Bovine can also be an adjective describing a cow.


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