Articles tagged "Three-Letter Words"

Three-Letter Words: Vie

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definitionSome 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.


To vie is to strive for victory. It is typically followed by for, as in:

Its star quarterback having made a full recovery, the team was more than ready to vie for the title.

Try a sample Antonyms problem:

VIE :
A. lose
B. vanquish
C. capitulate
D. truncate
E. weaken

Choose your own answer, then click Read More for the solution.

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Three-Letter Words: Lax

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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.


Lax is an easy one. If you’ve got relax, you can guess what lax means (loose, slack, careless, negligent, vague).

Her morals may have been lax, but no one was prepared for the overlaxness of her parenting skills: not only did she keep quiet as her children picked their noses, she didn’t even intervene when they picked each other’s noses.

Try a sample Sentence Completion problem:

Accustomed to a manager so lax that he allowed everyone to come to work in cutoffs and leave whenever the weather was nice, the employees were __________ at the _________ of their authoritarian new boss’s regime.

A. ebullient … uptight
B. shocked … pedagogy
C. aghast … asperity
D. intrepid … harshness
E. enervated … strictness

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

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Three-Letter Words: Ire

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definitionSome 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.

Ire means “anger or wrath” and comes from the same root as irascible and irate. To raise someone’s ire is to anger that person.

If it’s helpful as a mnemonic, you could remember ire by imagining a very angry man named Ira, or by imagining that everyone in Ireland is angry, although we certainly wouldn’t want to stereotype men named Ira, or the Irish, and certainly not Irish men named Ira.

Reading the above paragraph about ire would likely make an Irishman named Ira quite irate. No one wants to raise the ire of an irascible Irish Ira.

Try a sample Analogies problem:

MOLLIFY : IRE ::
A. socialize : apathy
B. rattle : equanimity
C. antagonize : desire
D. quarantine : happiness
E. silence : bombast

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

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Three-Letter Words: Pan

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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. Dictionary.com 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:

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

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

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Three-Letter Words: Fey

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definitionSome 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.

Fey? Like Tina Fey? Perhaps Tina Fey is descended from fairies, since the word fey means, weirdly:

  • like a fairy or elf; otherworldly, supernatural
  • doomed to die, or full of the sense of impending death
  • appearing touched or crazy
  • acting an an affected way (like a modern person who thinks she’s a fairy)

Wow, that’s a lot of meanings. Let’s try some!

After seven days in the forest with only dewdrops to drink, he began seeing elves, trolls, and tiny, sparkly, fey creatures with itty-bitty flapping wings.

The fey old woman said, her hand shaking: “I don’t have much time left! You must turn off the cat and appraise cloud eleven!” Whoa.

The pop star — who until 2008 had been an unassuming college music major — all of the sudden adopted a fey demeanor, speaking in an unplaceable accent and displaying a disturbed but very artistic-looking twitch.

Try a sample Antonyms problem:

FEY :
A. adamant
B. ruddy
C. thaumaturgical
D. hale
E. meretricious

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

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