Manhattan Prep GRE Blog

Vocab in the Movies: Avatar


avatarWhen the film Avatar came out, many online dictionaries reported that avatar was one of the most frequently looked up words for the month.

In Hinduism, an avatar is an incarnation of a god. On the internet, an avatar is a small image a user chooses to represent him or herself. In regular speech, however, an avatar is “an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life.” As in, “Having traveled the world with a backpack, I consider Dora the Explorer the avatar of my peripatetic lifestyle.”

Other words you can use in a similar way include apotheosis, archetype, epitome, exemplar, and quintessence.

For instance:

The coq au vin is the epitome of French cuisine.

Torture is the quintessence of evil.

Jason Statham is an exemplar of action heroes.

Her role in the play wasn’t well-developed; the character was simply an earth-mother archetype who served as a foil to the crafty — and more modernized — leading role.

Avatar is one of those words everyone thinks he knows — until you ask him for a definition. You are now one of the few people who knows how to use the word when you’re not on Pandora!

J. K. Sesquipedalian: Vocab in Harry Potter


J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, knows a profusion of Latin. When the first book came out in 1997, I noticed that villain Draco Malfoy‘s name was no accident. Sounds pretty evil, right?

dracoIf that name sounded nefarious but you weren’t sure why, it was probably because “mal” literally means “bad” in Latin: malnutrition, malady, malevolent, maleficent, malediction.

But “Draco” is even more interesting. The first Draco was a legislator in Athens in the 7th century B.C. His legal code forced people into slavery for their debts and specified the death penalty for even minor offenses; this barbarous code has given us the English word draconian, which means unusually harsh or cruel, especially in relation to laws and government.

There are plenty of other Harry Potter names related to GRE vocabulary words. The heroine of the series, Hermione Granger, is “Muggle-born” (that is, born to non-magical parents) — and, appropriately, a “granger” is a farmer. (Interestingly, many words about farming, such as provincial and yeoman, have come to take on the meaning or connotation of “ordinary”).

Of course, some of the names in the Harry Potter series, such as “Andreyius Snicklepitch,” are just meant to be ridiculous.

Welcome to the Manhattan GRE blog!


Welcome to the Manhattan GRE blog!  We hope you’ll come back daily, making us your diurnal (or perhaps preprandial, or postprandial, or matutinal) lexical stopover!

Since vocabulary is the pith, the crux, the marrow, the essentia of the GRE verbal section, every day we’ll post a GRE word, or several words clustered around a theme, in a way that relates to current events, pop culture, or the other aspects of the world around us.

Some experts say that you need to hear, read, or use a word 7 times to really know it. Other experts give different numbers, but the crux is: the more you interact with a word, and the more different ways in which you interact with that word, the better. Therefore, we’ll use a variety of media for greater mnemonic efficacy!

Are you ready to exigently augment your vocabulary? Let us commence!