Welcome to Vocab in the Classics. This is Part I of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Click on any of the linked words for a definition; there will be a quiz at the end!

TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.


This thing isn’t just old, it’s antediluvian.

Don’t confuse the ante- at the beginning of antediluvian with anti-. The prefix ante means “before,” and also occurs in antebellum (before war — in the US, before the Civil War).

Antediluvian actually means “before the flood” — as in Noah’s flood, from the Bible. Most of the time when people use antediluvian, they are being humorous.

My grandfather’s so antediluvian, when I told him that video stores were being replaced by digital media, he asked if I thought he should finally give in and buy one of those newfangled VHS players.

Brand Name Vocab: Kindle

Jen Dziura —  October 21, 2010 — Leave a comment

Amazon’s Kindle is an e-reader that allows you to carry many more books than you’re ever going to read on a small computer-like device that, in some people’s opinion, makes you look a bit pretentious in coffeeshops.

But what does kindle really mean?

To kindle is to set or ignite (as in a fire), or to metaphorically start a flame, such as by arousing interest or passion.

You can kindle a fire for your campsite, and you can kindle a love of reading in your toddler, although probably not with a Kindle, since electronic reading devices don’t work with pop-up books.

Choose your own answer to this GRE Antonyms problem before clicking “more”:

A. tout
B. deluge
C. damp
D. dilute
E. tamp

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jibe ≠ gibe

To jibe is to be in harmony or accord with. Her adopt-a-highway plan didn’t jibe with my idea of a good spring break. Surprisingly, jibe also means “to shift from one side to the other when running before the wind, as a fore-and-aft sail or its boom.”

To gibe is to jeer, taunt, or deride. Or, as a noun, gibes are insults.

After putting up with my lab partner’s gibes for the entire length of the project, I requested a less asinine classmate for the next semester’s project. As I told the professor, our styles just didn’t jibe, because I am amiable and she is an intractable boor.

Visual Dictionary: Ebullient

Jen Dziura —  October 19, 2010 — 1 Comment

Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.


This person is ebullient!

Try this Antonyms problem. Choose your own answer, then click “more.”

A. frothy
B. impassive
C. unbiased
D. tantamount
E. gelid

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

This is an awl. Use it to punch holes!

Nouns for physical objects occur most often in Analogies questions. So if you saw a question that began AWL : PERMEATING, you would make a sentence like “An AWL is a tool used for PERMEATING a substance” or “A 1 is a tool used for doing 2 to a substance.” Then you’d search for the answer choice that works best in the 1 and 2 spots of the above sentence.

Which of the following two answer choices would be your final answer as a match for AWL : PERMEATING?


Many Analogies questions are easily narrowed down to two choices, when difficult decisions have to be made. It’s true that a blender can homogenize and varnish can seal.

Go back to the relationship sentence. If you had written “An AWL is for PERMEATING” or “A 1 is for 2,” both choices seem correct! But a more specific sentence should include that an awl is a tool for permeating, and also that the permeating is done to something else.

Is a BLENDER a tool? Yes. Does it homogenize another substance? Yes.

Is varnish a tool? No. This is not a valid match. (Something that meant “varnish applying device” in place of “varnish” would’ve made the choice a match).

I wonder if leatherworkers ever say “Go out there and give it your awl!”

pop quizPop Quiz!

Because the GRE is a computer-adaptive test, chances are you’re going to see words you don’t know. When that happens, one useful strategy is to try to ferret out whether the unknown words have positive or negative connotations. You can do this using roots, your knowledge of similar words in English or Romance languages, or just your “gut” feeling.

Decide whether each word is positive, negative, or neutral, then click “more.”


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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.


Perhaps this fellow is incognito because he has
some clandestine business to attend to.

While clandestine means “secret,” it’s not a secret that the clandestine arm of the CIA is called the National Clandestine Service.

Some other words for “secret” are furtive and surreptitious.

While clandestine and furtive have similar meanings, furtive has a somewhat negative connotation. People have clandestine romantic affairs, but they furtively snoop through someone else’s email.

Manhattan GRE has developed 6 full-length GRE computer adaptive tests and is giving one away for free. Obviously, after massively augmenting your lexicon from its formerly pedestrian status to its currently redoubtable one, you will want to get a score on that thing.

After the practice test, you’ll see a results area that will not only give you a score (actually, a score for quant and a score for verbal, with percentiles), but also:

  • A rundown of all the problems you did
  • Your answer to each problem and the correct answer
  • Explanations for each problem
  • The difficulty level of each problem
  • The amount of time you spent on each problem
  • The cumulative time you spent over the course of the test versus the target cumulative time at various junctures during the test

If you take additional practice tests (you can also purchase access to all six exams here for $30, or get access to them by purchasing Manhattan GRE’s books or taking a class), you will be able to run assessment reports that will break down — among other useful statistics — what percent of problems you are getting correct or incorrect in specific areas such as Triangles, Exponents, Inference Questions in Reading Comp, etc.

Go here to take the free practice test.

Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

This guy is unctuous.

He’s trying to sell you a used car with 250,000 miles on it, and telling you that, if you don’t like the car, you’ll easily be able to resell it for a profit on the internet, and also the car is a total babe magnet.  Doesn’t this guy look like he would say “babe magnet”?  Unctuous.

Slugs are often thought to be unctuous.

Seriously unctuous.

Unctuous means greasy or oily, like an unguent. But we often use the word as a metaphor. That guy with the phone — kind of gross, right? It’s like he’s sliming your brain.

Bill’s unctuous uncle called him up asking for money. “Look, nephew … I know I haven’t called you since you were six, but I’ve got this unguent business, and I just need a few thousand bucks to get it off the ground, and also pay my rent. I’ve always liked you better than your cousins.”

Bill wasn’t that gullible. He told his unctuous uncle, “I don’t want any part of your unguent business.”