Manhattan Prep GRE Blog

Visual Dictionary: Buttress


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

This is a buttress.  A buttress is a support built against a wall to reinforce it.

Buttress can also be used metaphorically, as a noun or a verb.

To score highly on the GRE essays, you should buttress your arguments with relevant and specific examples.

She never wore her contact lenses; she felt that her image as an intellectual requried the buttress of a sharp pair of glasses.

Before approaching the Princess of Monaco with his famous line, “Did someone leave the oven door open or did your face start a heat wave?”, he buttressed his courage with a gin and tonic.

Three-Letter Words: Pan


Text book word close-upSome of the most perplexing words on the GRE are diminutive. Who doesn’t see PAN : REVIEW and metaphorically scratch his or her head, or wonder what, exactly, a nib or a gin is on its own? Welcome to Three-Letter Words. A few of them might make you want to deploy some four-letter words.

Pan? Today’s word is pan? Yep. gives no fewer than eighteen definitions of the word pan, many of them describing different types of containers. However, if you saw an Antonyms or Analogies problem and scanned the answers to discover that pan were being used as a verb, you’d want to know that the word can mean “criticize severely.”

Pan is often used, in both noun and verb form, in reference to reviews of artistic performances:

The movie was so bad, even “Stoners Monthly” panned it as a waste of time.

Her debut film, “Sisterhood of the Contagious Acne,” received far more pans than plaudits, but of course the distributors picked out the few good quotes for the DVD box.

Try a sample Antonyms problem:

A. laud
B. deplore
C. implore
D. console
E. rue

Choose your own answer, then click “more for the solution.

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Vocab at the Movies: Double Indemnity


Indemnity is “protection or security against damage or loss.” According to the Wikipedia entry for the 1944 film Double Indemnity:

double indemnityThe story was based on a 1927 crime perpetrated by a married Queens woman and her lover. Ruth Snyder persuaded her boyfriend, Judd Gray, to kill her husband Albert after having her spouse take out a big insurance policy”with a double-indemnity clause. The murderers were quickly identified and arrested.

The term double indemnity refers to a clause in certain life insurance policies where the insuring company agrees to pay twice the standard amount in cases of accidental death.

Some other GRE words related to money include:

Let’s try some example sentences:

Benicio’s recent securities acquisition more than doubled his portfolio; his boss liked to say that, while his portfolio accrued value, Benicio himself was also accruing acclaim.

According to the IRS, “a taxpayer may elect to amortize start-up expenditures (as defined in section 195(c)(1)). A taxpayer who elects to amortize start-up expenditures must, at the time of the election, select an amortization period of not less than 60 months.”

If the bank has a lien against your house, your mortgage agreement may require you to indemnify the property against damage.

While virtually all accounting is now done on computers, accountants can still go to jail for falsifying ledgers, especially to cover up their own or executives’ sybaritic lifestyles, as funded by stockholders: no one adds your company’s stock to his portfolio in order to pay for your massage-and-bourbon habit.

Easily Confused Words: Ingenuous and Ingenious


ingenuous ≠ ingenious

The GRE loves to use words that people tend to mistake for other words. Ingenuous means candid, open, unrestrained, naive. A good synonym is artless (another confusing word — artless means lacking artifice, not lacking works of art).

Ingenious, of course, means characterized by cleverness or ingenuity. A person is a genius; his or her work is ingenious.

The quack made a career out of bilking vulnerable seniors by setting up tables at the mall and performing fake medical tests, thus convincing people to pay for his “cures.” You could say he was ingeniously disingenuous.

Brand Name Vocab: Thanks for the Extra Consonants


Arrid is a deodorant. Nexxus is a line of hair-care products. What they have in common is that each of them has added an extra letter to a GRE vocabulary word, probably to make the name easier to legally protect.

Arid means dry, barren, sterile. Arrid will make your armpits arid.

A nexus is a core, center, or means of connection.
Nexxus will make your hair pretty.

Next time I start a product line, I’m going to call it Granddddiloquent.

Spells in Harry Potter


The Harry Potter series mentions sundry magic spells to perform such multifarious tasks as disarming one’s opponent, enlarging teeth, splitting seams, and turning small objects into birds. These spells also contain Latin roots that are reminiscent of myriad GRE vocabulary words!

Duro makes an object hard. You probably already know durable, but how about obdurate and duress?

Evanesco is a vanishing spell. Something that is evanescent doesn’t last long.

Expecto patronum creates a “patronus,” or protector. This comes from the Latin word for father, which gives us patriotic, as well as patronize, patronage, and patrician.

Fidelius is a secret-keeping spell, related to fidelity and infidel.

Wingardium leviosa is related to levitate and leaven, but also levity, a more metaphorical sense of lightness.

Incendio produces fire. Incendiary can be a noun (something that causes fire, such as a stick of dynamite or the person using it) or an adjective, and as an adjective it can mean either literally causing fire or metaphorically heating things up, as in, “Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense was viewed as incendiary by British Loyalists.”

Brand Name Vocab: Torrid


Torrid means burningly, scorchingly hot, like the Sahara, or like a summer trip to Israel that your parents send you on as a teenager. The word also means ardent or passionate.

Torrid is a line of young, hip clothing for plus-size women.

The company’s name means “really hot.” Makes sense!

The word “torrid” is often used in expressions such as “a torrid romance” or “a torrid affair.”

A quick Google search brought up several companies that also use the word “torrid” in their names: Torrid Marine (“the most trusted name in marine water heaters”),
Torrid Oven (yep, they sell ovens, all right), and Torrid Romance, where, by sending in “nearly thirty personalized details,” you can obtain a personalized romance novel “that features you and your lover as the hero and heroine.”

Torrid indeed!

Vocab in the Classics: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Part III


Welcome to Vocab in the Classics. In our final post about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, we look at selections from Washington Irving’s short story.

He was a native of Connecticut, a State which supplies the Union with pioneers for the mind as well as for the forest, and sends forth yearly its legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters. The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together.

In cold weather he was distinguished by a fur cap, surmounted with a flaunting fox’s tail; and when the folks at a country gathering descried this well-known crest at a distance, whisking about among a squad of hard riders, they always stood by for a squall.

He was satisfied with his wealth, but not proud of it; and piqued himself upon the hearty abundance, rather than the style in which he lived.

That he might make his appearance before his mistress in the true style of a cavalier, he borrowed a horse from the farmer with whom he was domiciliated, a choleric old Dutchman of the name of Hans Van Ripper, and, thus gallantly mounted, issued forth like a knight-errant in quest of adventures.

There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling.

Ichabod Crane was famously portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 1999 film, Sleepy Hollow, although it’s clear from the description above that Depp is substantially more handsome and less ridiculous than Crane was meant to be.

Read the original story here.


Vocab in the Classics: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Part II


Welcome to Vocab in the Classics. Here we look at selections from Washington Irving’s short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Today we learn more about Ichabod Crane, protagonist of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir at the tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary dish of cakes or sweetmeats, or, peradventure, the parade of a silver teapot…. From his half-itinerant life, also, he was a kind of travelling gazette, carrying the whole budget of local gossip from house to house, so that his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through, and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft,” in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed.

Manhattan GRE’s blog is written by one of our real-live GRE instructors. She teaches in New York. To learn about Manhattan GRE’s classes, go here. To suggest a word or topic for the blog, email Thanks to adult spelling bee champ David Riddle for suggesting and providing content for this post.

Vocab in the Classics: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


Welcome to Vocab in the Classics. Here we look at selections from Washington Irving’s short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Now, let us meet Ichabod Crane, the protagonist of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

There was something extremely provoking in this obstinately pacific system; it left Brom no alternative but to draw upon the funds of rustic waggery in his disposition, and to play off boorish practical jokes upon his rival. Ichabod became the object of whimsical persecution to Bones and his gang of rough riders. They harried his hitherto peaceful domains; smoked out his singing school by stopping up the chimney; broke into the schoolhouse at night… and turned everything topsy-turvy, so that the poor schoolmaster began to think all the witches in the country held their meetings there.

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

A. exciting
B. conversant
C. inept
D. decorous
E. magniloquent

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