Top 130 GRE Vocabulary Words & How to Study
May 3, 2023
You’ve seen them before: GRE test preppers on the bus with a huge stack of flashcards. The GRE verbal section may seem intimidating, but acing your way through the top GRE vocabulary won’t just get you a high score: it will help your professional and personal impressions, too. Think of the top GRE vocabulary list as a gift that will come in handy throughout the rest of your life. This section of the exam prepares you for all types of graduate-level communication. Knowing all the major GRE vocab words can save you from being lost in an important conversation or lecture. Even more than that, using these words casually will help you impress an audience with your aplomb (n. self-confidence in a stressful situation).
Before we get to the top 130 GRE vocabulary words, let’s talk about studying correctly. If you use these helpful memorization tips, you won’t just get a top score on the exam (or immediately forget them afterwards). Instead, you’re guaranteed to become a stronger reader, writer, and speaker.
Step 1: How to Memorize GRE Vocabulary:
- Remember words through association. The weirder the association, the easier it will be to remember. The word Acerbic (adj. sharp; forthright) might remind you of Bic pens. Then imagine a sharp pen tip writing an acerbic review of the latest Carly Rae Jepsen album.
- Mnemonic devices. Using memory tricks like acrostics (ROY G BIV) or rhymes can be a creative way of remembering. Abasement (n. Humiliation or degrading) Happens in the Basement. (Sorry…that got dark.)
- Repetition. Repeating words over and over, and using flashcards to do so is another way to remember them: like memorizing times-tables.
- Break each word down: Let’s say you run into the word “pyre” on the test and you’ve never seen the word before. What other words are similar? “Pyromaniac” maybe? So you’ll probably guess n. Heap of combustible material.
- Use visual aids: Once again, taking words into new contexts help you remember. “Minion,” which means follower or underling, is a good example…imagine these little guys following you everywhere.
- Learn the words in context: This one is my favorite–just by reading a magazine like The New Yorker or The New Criterion, where they’re not afraid to get a bit ostentatious (adj. designed to impress), you’ll learn something and a new word. Pervasive is a great add-on that highlights GRE words while you’re reading the news.
- Use it or lose it!: The #1 best way to learn GRE vocab is to throw yourself into using these words in conversation or in writing. Get ostentatious in your text messages! Make up your own sentences for each, and let them apply to your life. As soon as you feel like these words are yours, the GRE will be an afterthought.
Step 2: The Top 130 GRE Vocab Words
Are you ready? Here are the top vocab words that appear almost every year, with definitions and some sentences to remember them by.
1) Abasement – the act of humiliating or degrading: I don’t want to go through the abasement of begging you to go to prom with me on my hands and knees.
2) Abate – become less intense: Luckily, his invitations to the prom abated with time.
3) Abstain – to refrain from doing something: I had abstained from eating until after my blood test.
4) Accession – attain position of power: Everyone watched the prom queen’s accession to the prom throne.
5) Acerbic – sharp and forthright: My dumb older brother made his usual acerbic comments about how stupid my prom dress was.
6) Acolyte – assistant in religious celebration: The traveling preacher was followed by his usual cloud of adoring acolytes.
7) Acumen – ability to make quick, good judgements: My chess acumen is improving due to obsessive practice on Chess.com
8) Agog – eager or excited: Everyone was agog when they saw the shimmering magenta prom dress I planned to wear.
9) Alacrity – brisk readiness: Rarely do colonized people accept their colonizers with alacrity.
10) Anomaly – something that is unusual or unexpected: As the only person who attended the prom dressed as a cowboy, I was something of an anomaly.
GRE Vocab List (Continued)
11) Anodyne – weakened or bland: his party platform seemed anodyne after the exciting radical statements of the other party.
12) Antipathy – deep-seated dislike: I feel great antipathy for my father’s new, much younger wife.
13) Apostle – disciple of Jesus Christ: Like an apostle, I ran out to tell everyone about Greta Thunberg’s ideas.
14) Apprise – tell or inform: Keep us apprised of the landlord’s movements, so we can pretend not to be home.
15) Armada – fleet of warships: The emperor sent his armada to the gulf, looking to start a war.
16) Arson – criminally set fire to property: An accidental fire is covered by homeowner’s insurance, but arson is not.
17) Ascribe – attribute something to: I ascribe my beauty and brains to my mother’s genes.
18) Assuage – relieve, make less intense: I tried to assuage her fears about climate change by describing how great life on Mars will be.
19) Banal – lacking originality to the point of being boring: The endless Marvel movies are starting to get banal.
GRE Vocabulary List – Words 20-39
20) Barrage – concentrated artillery bombardment over a large area: I received a barrage of texts after I announced my pregnancy.
21) Bevy – large group of people: A bevy of people were grinding on the dancefloor, but I was not tempted.
22) Belligerent – easy or quick to argue: There’s always one belligerent customer who ruins your night about the price of shrimp scampi.
23) Boor – ill-mannered person: Remember to take off your shoes so you don’t seem like a boor.
24) Bucolic – relating to the pleasant aspects of country living: His bucolic childhood memories included corn-shucking contests and feeding goats.
25) Canonical – according to the order of canon law: By now Kendrick Lamar’s music is canonical. They don’t call him “Pulitzer Kenny” for nothing.
26) Capricious – sudden change of mood: The capricious cat may bite.
27) Chauvinism – exaggerated patriotism: Think of how many people who suffer because of our country, you chauvinist pig!
28) Circumspect – unwilling to take risk: You’re right. I’ll try to be more circumspect before calling you names like that again.
29) Coalesce – come together to form one group: If we’re all calling each other “chauvinist pigs” how will we ever coalesce into a functioning democracy?
GRE Vocab List (Continued)
30) Coffer – small box to hold valuables: The pay is low, but it’s still good to have money in one’s coffers.
31) Condone – accept or allow: I don’t condone the use of lean as described in the song “Old Town Road”
32) Contrite – expressing remorse: He is rarely contrite after he calls us “chauvinist pigs.”
33) Credulous – having too great a readiness to believe things: Billy is so credulous that I’m afraid one day he’ll be scammed.
34) Demur – raise doubts or refuse: He demurred once again when I asked him to prom.
35) Depravity – moral corruption: The level of depravity overseen by Boss Tweed was unparalleled.
36) Deride – express contempt for: His much-derided opinion column made bold statements with little evidence.
37) Diffident – lacking self-confidence, timid: The diffident water buffalo eventually came up to lick my hand.
38) Endemic – found among people in a specific area: Yes of course water buffalo are endemic to these parts.
39) Enervate – weaken, sap resources: Having students who don’t care is enervating for a teacher.
GRE Vocabulary List – Words 40-59
40) Ersatz – an inferior substitute: I always get the ersatz version because it’s cheaper.
41) Erudite – having great or deep knowledge: ChatGPT might seem like a quick way to erudite knowledge, but much of what it says is fake.
42) Eulogy – speech praising someone highly: The key to a good funeral eulogy is brevity.
43) Euphony – an agreeable sound: We listened in silence to the euphony of buzzing bees and singing swallows described in the poem.
44) Equivocal – allowing multiple meanings, ambiguous: The New York Times is often accused of being equivocal to appease multiple political persuasions.
45) Extant – surviving, still existing: I burned the only extant documents from my love affair with George.
46) Gossamer – very thin or delicate: His gossamer mesh tank top was extremely revealing.
47) Harangue – a long, aggressive speech: They always harangue me when I get caught staring through people’s gossamer mesh tank tops.
48) Hegemony – leadership: Sometimes it feels like Google and Apple have total hegemony over our lives.
49) Inculpate – accuse or blame: Remember your Miranda rights: don’t say anything that they can use to inculpate you in court.
GRE Vocab List (Continued)
50) Ingenuous – innocent or unsuspecting: She seems ingenuous because she has wide eyes, but she’s actually an ingenious murderer.
51) Innocuous – harmless: After many innocuous little bites, suddenly the pizza was gone.
52) Insipid – lacking interest or vigor: I had the most insipid Tinder date in the world.
53) Laconic – using few words, concise: Laconic humor is ideal for Twitter.
54) Lachrymose – mournful, tear-inducing, sad: The most lachrymose piece of music, ideal for funerals, is Mozart’s Lacrimosa
55) Laudable – deserving praise or commendation: He got a laudable 1600 on the SAT. But did he clean his room?
56) Lethargic – sluggish: I’m always lethargic before 10 AM.
57) Listless – lacking energy: Ever since the circus left town, she’s been listless.
58) Livid – furiously angry: When he called my mother ugly, I was livid.
59) Loll – sit in a relaxed fashion: We lolled on the grass like cows.
GRE Vocabulary List – Words 60-79
60) Lurid – vivid or harsh: I love lurid crime shows, the more guts, the better.
61) Mar – disfigure: Getting caught in the fire marred my face, but didn’t alter my spirit.
62) Maudlin – tearfully or weakly emotional: The only time I cry is watching maudlin movies.
63) Mince – grind or cut up: I minced the garlic for the most ideal bolognese sauce.
64) Minion – follower: The governor will get one of her minions to do it.
65) Mirth – amusement: Reading the GRE vocabulary list was surprisingly filled with mirth.
Now, for the second half our Top 130 GRE Vocab Words, try to create your own sentences!
66) Misanthrope – a person who dislike humanity and avoids human society
67) Modest – unassuming or moderate
68) Morose – sullen
69) Munificent – unexpectedly generous
70) Muse – daughter of Zeus
71) Nadir – lowest point
72) Nonplussed – totally perplexed!
73) Obdurate – stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion
74) Oblique – neither parallel or at a right angle
75) Opaque – not able to be seen through
76) Overwrought – anxiety
77) Paradox – statement despite sound reasoning leads to conclusion that seems senseless
78) Paucity – the presence of something in small quantities
79) Pernicious – causing subtle harm
GRE Vocabulary List – Words 80-99
80) Pertain – to be related to
81) Philanthropic – seeking to promote the welfare of others
82) Philistine – lacking culture and/or hostile to the arts
83) Placate – make less angry
84) Platitude – statement with moral content
85) Plethora – excessive amount of something
86) Posit – assume as fact
87) Prodigal – spending resources wastefully
88) Prophetic – accurately describing the future
89) Prosaic – dull, commonplace
90) Puerile – infantile
91) Purist – someone who insists on following the letter of the law
92) Pyre – pile of combustible material
93) Quack – sound make by a duck
94) Quixotic – idealistic, unrealistic
95) Quotidian – everyday, unremarkable
96) Reticence – not revealing one’s thoughts
97) Restive – restless, uneasy
98) Rue – bitterly regret
99) Ruminate – think deeply
GRE Vocabulary List – Words 100-119
100) Soporific – sleep-inducing
101) Specious – superficially plausible
102) Stigma – mark of disgrace associated with an action
103) Strut – rod forming part of a framework
104) Sublime – of such excellence as to inspire others
105) Surly – unfriendly
106) Taunt – remark meant to provoke someone
107) Tawdry – showy but cheap and of low quality
108) Temperate – climate of mild temperatures
109) Terse – sparing use of words, abrupt
110) Tome – large, heavy book
111) Torrid – very hot and dry
112) Transgression – act that goes against the law
113) Treacherous – guilt of betrayal
114) Urbane – refined or courteous
115) Vapid – offering nothing that is challenging or stimulating
116) Verbose – using or expressing in more words than are needed
117) Venerate – regard with great respect
118) Vestige – a trace of something that doesn’t exist
119) Vilify – speak about in a disparaging manner
GRE Vocabulary List – Words 119-130
120) Viscous – having this consistency
121) Volatile – evaporate at normal temperatures
122) Waffle – fail to make up one’s mind
123) Waft – pass easily through the air
124) Wanton – deliberate or unprovoked
125) Waver – become unsteady or unreliable
126) Whitewash – conceal mistakes
127) Winsome – attractive in appearance or character
128) Wizened – wrinkled with age
129) Wry – expressing dry, mocking, humor
130) Zeal – get enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause
GRE Vocabulary List – Additional Resources
As you study for your GRE, you may find the other College Transitions graduate school admissions-related blogs to be of interest: