Tag Archives: vocabulary builder

Vocabulary Builder: Pragmatic

Long Definition:

prag·mat·ic    Audio Help   [prag-mat-ik] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation


1. of or pertaining to a practical point of view or practical considerations.
2. Philosophy. of or pertaining to pragmatism (def. 2).
3. of or pertaining to pragmatics (defs. 1, 2).
4. treating historical phenomena with special reference to their causes, antecedent conditions, and results.
5. of or pertaining to the affairs of state or community.
6. Archaic.

a. busy; active.
b. officious; meddlesome; interfering.
c. dogmatic; opinionated.


7. pragmatic sanction.
8. Archaic. an officious or meddlesome person.
Also, prag·mat·i·cal (for defs. 1, 2, 5).

[Origin: 1580–90; < L pr?gmaticus < Gk pr?gmatikós practical, equiv. to pr?gmat- (s. of prâgma) deed, state business (deriv. of prssein to do, fare; see practic) + -ikos -ic]

prag·mat·i·cal·i·ty, prag·mat·i·cal·ness, noun
prag·mat·i·cal·ly, adverb

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

NOTE: I've only seen definition 1 above used on the GRE.

Short Definition:


  • Let's be pragmatic.  There's no need to argue about whether or not the Toyota or the Lexus is more powerful, since we can't afford the Lexus anyway.
  • Her pragmatic approach to governance–championing approaches that were effective rather than those that were appealing–made her a very effective leader.
  • Pragmatism says we ignore beauty and concentrate on effectiveness.

Vocabulary Builder: Wax

Long Definition:

wax      [waks] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation

–verb (used without object), waxed; waxed or (Literary) wax·en; wax·ing.

1. to increase in extent, quantity, intensity, power, etc.: Discord waxed at an alarming rate.
2. (of the moon) to increase in the extent of its illuminated portion before the full moon. Compare wane (def. 4).
3. to grow or become: He waxed angry at the insinuation.

[Origin: bef. 900; ME waxen, OE weaxan; c. G wachsen; akin to waist]

1. extend, grow, lengthen, enlarge, dilate.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Short Definition: to increase


  • He waxed witty at the end of his speech and, although many laughed, they also took him less seriously.
  • She could tell when her mother waxed angry because the vein on her forehead would begin to throb.
  • Unlike my friends, my plants wax fat and happy when I cover them with manure.

Wax > increase; I see myself waxing my car and as I do so it begins to increase in size.

Vocabulary Builder: Chary

Long Definition:

char·y [chair-ee] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation

–adjective, char·i·er, char·i·est.

1. cautious or careful; wary: He was chary of investing in oil wells.
2. shy; timid.
3. fastidious; choosy: She is excessively chary about her friends.
4. sparing (often fol. by of): chary of his praise.

[Origin: bef. 1000; ME; OE cearig sorrowful (c(e)ar(u) care + -ig -y1); c. OS karag, OHG karag (G karg scanty, paltry)]

char·i·ly, adverb

1. circumspect. 4. frugal.
1. trustful. 2. confident. 3. uncritical. 4. lavish.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Short Definition:


  • His comments on test papers were chary, often leaving his students mystified as to the reason for their grades.
  • The chariest men you will ever meet are members o
  • Chary when meeting new people, he mostly looked at his feet during the introductions.

Cherry > careful: A giant cartoon cherry is walking very carefully through a field with a sign posted saying, “Beware of Land Mines.”

Vocabulary Builder: Rue

Long Definition:

rue1 [roo] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation, verb, rued, ru·ing, noun

–verb (used with object)

1. to feel sorrow over; repent of; regret bitterly: to rue the loss of opportunities.
2. to wish that (something) had never been done, taken place, etc.: I rue the day he was born.

–verb (used without object)

3. to feel sorrow, repentance, or regret.


4. sorrow; repentance; regret.
5. pity or compassion.

[Origin: bef. 900; (v.) ME ruen, rewen, OE hréowan; c. D rouwen, G reuen; (n.) ME rewe, reowe, OE hréow; c. D rouw, G Reue; cf. ruth]

ruer, noun

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Short Definition: Regret


  • I’ll make you rue the day you were born!
  • She often had cause to rue her sordid past.
  • The candidate rued her past indiscretions, especially when they came out in the press.

Root > Regret; Picture yourself digging up a big, long, white root out of the ground and eating it with great relish. However, you immediately become violently ill and regret the fact that you ate the root. To further capture the idea of “regret,” imagine yourself looking at a picture album of you eating the root, shaking your head and crying.

Vocabulary Builder: Obviate

Long Definition:

ob·vi·ate      [ob-vee-eyt] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation

–verb (used with object), -at·ed, -at·ing.

to anticipate and prevent or eliminate (difficulties, disadvantages, etc.) by effective measures; render unnecessary: to obviate the risk of serious injury.

[Origin: 1590–1600; < L obvi?tus, ptp. of obvi?re to act contrary to, deriv. of obvius; see obvious, -ate1]

ob·vi·a·ble      [ob-vee-uh-buhl] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation, adjective
ob·vi·a·tion, noun
ob·vi·a·tor, noun

preclude, avert, anticipate.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Short Definition: Make unnecessary


  • Bringing along Benson, with his long legs, obviated the need for a step ladder.
  • Studying a little each day obviated the need for an all-night cram session the night before the exam.
  • Using spell check on the computer doesn't obviate the need for effective proof reading.

Opera > V > ate > make unnecessary: I went to the opera last night but the opera singers kept coming down off the stage and showing me the "V" for victory symbol with their fingers.  I finally got mad and ate the fingers of the next person who did this, and I got up and walked out.  I thought I might get something to eat but since I had already eaten the two fingers it made dinner unnecessary.  [NOTE: This isn't the greatest mnemonic, but I think it would work pretty well for me.  Can you devise a better one?  I'd love to hear what you come up with.]

Vocabulary Builder: Disparate

Long Definition:

dis·pa·rate (d?s’p?r-?t, d?-sp?r’?t) Pronunciation Key

  1. Fundamentally distinct or different in kind; entirely dissimilar: “This mixture of apparently disparate materials—scandal and spiritualism, current events and eternal recurrences—is not promising on the face of it” (Gary Wills).
  2. Containing or composed of dissimilar or opposing elements: a disparate group of people who represented a cross section of the city.

[Latin dispar?tus, past participle of dispar?re, to separate : dis-, apart; see dis- + par?re, to prepare; see per?-1 in Indo-European roots.]

dis’pa·rate·ly adv., dis’pa·rate·ness n.
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Short Definition: Differing

His disparate attempts to ace the GRE–he tried everything from good luck charms to memorizing prep books–finally resulted in an excellent score.
People as disparate as Joseph Stalin and Mother Theresa are members of the human race.


Dizzy>parrot>de-furring; A parrot is whirling round and round on his perch until he’s so dizzy he throws up. He then flies down and picks up an electric shaver and begins de-furring a big black dog lying below his perch. Black fur flies everywhere, and the dizzy parrot makes a complete mess of it, as he screeches, “AAwwk, de-furring!!!”

Vocabulary Builder: Hegemony

Long Definition:

he·gem·o·ny [hi-jemuh-nee, hejuh-moh-nee] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation

–noun, plural -nies.

1. leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation over others, as in a confederation.
2. leadership; predominance.
3. (esp. among smaller nations) aggression or expansionism by large nations in an effort to achieve world domination.

[Origin: 1560–70; < Gk hégemonía leadership, supremacy, equiv. to hégemon- (s. of hégemn) leader + -ia -y3]

heg·e·mon·ic [hej-uhmon-ik] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation, heg·e·mon·i·cal, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Short Definition: leadership

Sparta exercised hegemony over neighboring city-states for many years.
The hegemony of the superpowers is often opposed in the UN.
The demagogue’s hegemony was applauded by many subject peoples.

Hedge>Money>Leader>Ship; While walking through the green fields of Britain I came to a great green hedge. I noticed that instead of leaves it was covered with money. Just as I was about to walk up and grab a fistful I heard a great ship’s horn. I looked up to see a huge ocean liner sailing down the top of the hedge. It was followed by a long line of smaller ships. This oceanliner was the leader ship.

Vocabulary Builder: Recondite

Long Definition:

rec·on·dite [rekuh n-dahyt, ri-kon-dahyt] Pronunciation Key Show IPA Pronunciation


1. dealing with very profound, difficult, or abstruse subject matter: a recondite treatise.
2. beyond ordinary knowledge or understanding; esoteric: recondite principles.
3. little known; obscure: a recondite fact.

[Origin: 1640–50; earlier recondit < L reconditus recondite, hidden (orig. ptp. of recondere to hide), equiv. to re- re- + cond(ere) to bring together (con- con- + -dere to put) + -itus -ite2 ]

rec·on·dite·ly, adverb
rec·on·dite·ness, noun

2. deep. 3. mysterious, occult, secret.
2. exoteric. 3. well-known.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Short Definition: Hidden knowledge


My professor’s constant references to recondite sources made her extremely difficult to understand.
The yogi’s teachings illuminated some concepts that most would consider recondite.
GRE vocabulary words are often recondite; most people have never heard, much less used, those words.


Wreck>cone>diet>hidden knowledge; On my way to school the other day I passed a big wreck. There were emergency vehicles everywhere, and they were using bright orange traffic cones to redirect traffic. I stole one of the cones, hid behind a tree, and began to eat the cone. It was part of my new traffic cone diet. I pulled the diet guide from my backpack, looked carefully around to make sure no one was watching, and began translating the secret runes in which it was written. The diet is hidden knowledge of the ancients, and I couldn’t let anyone discover it.

Vocabulary Builder: Extirpate

Long Definition:

ex·tir·pate [ek-ster-peyt, ik-stur-peyt ] Pronunciation Key Show IPA Pronunciation

–verb (used with object), -pat·ed, -pat·ing.

1. to remove or destroy totally; do away with; exterminate.
2. to pull up by or as if by the roots; root up: to extirpate an unwanted hair.

[Origin: 1530–40; < L ex(s)tirp?tus plucked up by the stem (ptp. of ex(s)tirp?re), equiv. to ex- ex-1 + stirp- (s. of stirps) stem + -?tus -ate1]

ex·tir·pa·tion, noun
ex·tir·pa·tive, adjective
ex·tir·pa·tor, noun

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Short Definition: Exterminate


  • Our cat successfully extirpated our rodent infestation.
  • Extirpate any thought of going home. You are here for the long haul.

Eggs > Stir > Bait > Exterminate: I went fishing and took a dozen eggs along with my can of worms to fish with. I carefully cracked the eggs and stirred them into the bait with a long wooden spoon thinking that the fish would like egg-covered worms. Unfortunately, all of my worms were exterminated by the raw eggs, and I had to throw them out. I gave them a nice burial beside the river and marked the spot with egg shells.

Vocabulary Builder: Saturnine

Long Definition:

sat·ur·nine [sat-er-nahyn] Pronunciation Key Show IPA Pronunciation


1. sluggish in temperament; gloomy; taciturn.
2. suffering from lead poisoning, as a person.
3. due to absorption of lead, as bodily disorders.

[Origin: 1400–50; late ME < ML s?turn?nus (see Saturn, -ine1) ]

sat·ur·nine·ly, adverb
sat·ur·nine·ness, sat·ur·nin·i·ty [sat-er-nin-i-tee] Pronunciation Key Show IPA Pronunciation, noun

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

NOTE: Saturnine has a fairly broad range of definitions among different dictionaries. The GRE and SAT will not use definitions 2 or 3 above, since they are specific to the medical field. Saturnine also has the idea of sullen, bitter, or dark in outlook. It is applied to personalities, not objects or environments.

Short Definition: Gloomy


  • His saturnine disposition made him unwelcome at parties.
  • The child’s saturnine expression and refusal to be cheered up indicated some trouble with her home life.

Saturn > gloomy: Picture the ringed planet Saturn floating in space. The planet has a face with a big frown on it. It looks depressed, bitter, and gloomy. You might imagine a famous comedian–such as Groucho Marx– floating in space in an astronaut suit, doing his best to make Saturn smile, but no luck.