GRE and Confusing Words

Easily Confused Words and the GRE

The following easily confused words are likely to appear in the verbal sections of the GRE. These are not homonyms (words that are spelled the differently, have different meanings, but sound and/or are spelled alike but have different meanings, such as they're, their, and there). There are two types:

  1. words that have similar spellings but different meanings. When these words are confused for each other, it is usually because the reader is familiar with one, but not the other (less commonly used) one. A good example is the pair: different and diffident.
  2. A few are confused because their meanings overlap or because the words are used in related contexts. A good example of this type is the frequently confused pair: infer, and imply.

I suggest you learn all these words. When you take the GRE, you'll find it was time well spent. Because the best way for you to learn to distinguish these words is to learn both the spelling and the definition, I am not including definitions of most of the words in this list. Looking the words up in the dictionary will help fix the new words in your memory. For really problematic words, however, I do give the definitions.

I've left blanks so you can write in definitions. Alternate shading pairs (or groups) similar words.

viscous

 

vicious

 

restive

 

restful

 

effect

 

affect

 

compass

 

compress

 

indigenous

 

indigent

 

ingenuous (and disingenuous)

 

ingenious (ingenuity)

 

infer

 

imply

 

insensible

 

insensitive

 

elusive

 

effusive

 

corroborate

 

collaborate

 

endemic

 

epidemic

 

dissemble

 

disassemble

 

diffident

 

different (difference)

 

deference

 

deprecate (deprecation)

 

depreciate (depreciation)

 

fission

division into two or more parts: Nuclear fission is the principle behind nuclear weapons.

fusion

joining of two or more entities into one, such as in nuclear fusion (the joining of atomic nuclei) or fusion jazz (jazz that joins elements from various musical traditions): They are attempting to harness the energy produced by nuclear fusion

extant

in existence; used especially to refer to the last surviving examples of something passing out of existence, such as an antique book or a nearly extinct species

extent

 length or amount: The extent of corruption in the bureaucracy was well known.

incredulous (credulous)

disbelieving, very doubtful

incredible (credible)

difficult to believe

emulate

to pattern one's behavior (on a respected role model)

imitate

to copy

descry

to make open or plain, by saying

decry

to condemn

engender

to bring into being

endanger

 to put at risk

ambiguous

vague; capable of various interpretations

ambivalent

being of two minds; holding conflicting feelings or attitudes

discomfort (n)

 the lack of ease or comfort

flaunt to display brazenly or pretentiously
flout to show an obvious disregard or disrespect for; to treat contemptuously
lied the past tense of lie, as in "He lied about his age to get into the Army."
lied (pronounced leed) a song; a type German of song, meant to be sung, as opposed to a purely instrumental tune (since this is actually a German word, the plural is lieder, not lieds)

discomfit (vt)

to disconcert or make uncomfortable

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