English Common Adjectives

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markedly different from an accepted norm
When the financial director started screaming and throwing food at his co-workers; the police had to come in to deal with his aberrant behavior.
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difficult to understand; incomprehensible
Physics textbooks can seem so abstruse to the uninitiated that readers feel as though they are looking at hieroglyphics.
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harsh in tone
Most movie critics are acerbic towards summer blockbusters; often referring to them as garbage.
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refusing to change one's mind
Civil rights icon Rosa Parks will forever be remembered for adamantly refusing to give up her seat on a public bus--even after the bus driver insisted; she remained rooted in place.
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serving to warn; expressing reproof or reproach especially as a corrective
At the assembly; the high school vice-principal gave the students an admonitory speech; warning them of the many risks and dangers of prom night.
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concerned with the appreciation of beauty
The director; not known for his aesthetic sensibilities; decided not to use costumes at all; and put on the play in everyday clothing.
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open to more than one interpretation
"The coach told his team; ""Move towards that side of the field""; because he did not point; his directions were ambiguous; and the team had no idea to which side he was referring."
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mixed or conflicting emotions about something
Sam was ambivalent about studying for the exam because doing so ate up a lot of his time; yet he was able to improve his analytical skills.
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easily persuaded
Even though she did not like the outdoors; Shirley was generally amenable and so her brother was able to persuade her to go camping.
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His study plan for the GRE was at best amorphous; he would do questions from random pages in any one of seven test prep books.
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not normal
According to those who do not believe in climate change; the extreme weather over the last five years is simply anomalous--average temps should return to average; they believe.
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sharply contrasted in character or purpose
His deep emotional involvement with these ideas is; in fact; antithetical to the disattachment Buddhism preaches.
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marked by a lack of interest
Mr. Thompson was so talented at teaching math that even normally apathetic students took interest.
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being of questionable authenticity
The web is notorious for sandwiching apocryphal stories between actual news.
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based on a random; groundless decision
One of the arbitrary decrees in place during the emperor's rule is that all citizens pay him weekly homage at his palace. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE
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requiring secret or mysterious knowledge
Most college fraternities are known for arcane rituals that those hoping to the join the fraterntiy must learn.
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demanding considerable mental effort and skill; testing powers of endurance
In order to deal with the arduous cross-country journey; truck drivers often survive on a string of caffeinated drinks; staying awake for up to 30 hours at a time.
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clever in a cunning way
Bernie Madoff's artful Ponzi scheme stole billions of dollars from investors and is considered the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.
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practicing self-denial
His ascetic life is the main reason he inspired so many followers; especially since he gave up wealth and power to live in poverty.
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willing to be bold in social situations or to take risks
As all of the other campers cowered in their tents; Bill; armed only with a flashlight; audaciously tracked down the bear that had raided their food.
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favorable; the opposite of sinister
Despite an auspicious beginning; Mike's road trip became a series of mishaps; and he was soon stranded and penniless; leaning against his wrecked automobile.
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harsh in manner of temperament
The principal of my elementary school was a cold; austere woman; I could never understand why she chose to work with children.
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excessively greedy
Since avaricious desire is similar to gluttony or lust--sins of excess--it was listed as one of the seven deadly sins by the Catholic church.
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repeated too often; overfamiliar through overuse
The professor used such banal expression that many students in the class either fell asleep from bordeom or stayed awake to complete his sentences and humor friends.
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characteristic of one eager to fight
Tom said that he was arguing the matter purely for philosophical reasons; but his belligerent tone indicated an underlying anger about the issue.
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without any attempt at concealment; completely
Allen was often punished in school for blatantly disrespecting teachers
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bold and without shame
"Their large ""donations"" to the local police department gave the drug cartel the brazen confidence to do their business out in the open."
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relating to the pleasant aspects of the country
The noble families of England once owned vast expanses of beautiful; bucolic land.
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lacking physical movement skills; especially with the hands
Within a week of starting; the bumbling new waiter was unceremoniously fired.
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determined by chance or impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason
Nearly every month our capricious CEO had a new plan to turn the company around; and none of them worked because we never gave them the time they needed to succeed.
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to be in proportion or corresponding in degree or amount
The convicted felon's life sentence was commensurate to the heinousness of his crime.
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without any attempt at concealment; completely obvious
American basketball players are always conspicuous when they go abroad--not only are they American; but some are over seven feet tall.
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possible but not certain to occur
Whether the former world champions can win again this year is contingent upon none of its star players getting injured.
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in abundant supply
In midsummer; there are copious popiscle stands at the beach; in the winter; there are none.
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pathetically cowardly
Though the man could have at least alerted the police; he crouched cravenly in the corner as the old woman was mugged.
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mysterious or vague; usually intentionally
Since Sarah did not want her husband to guess the Christmas present she had bought him; she only answered cryptically when he would ask her questions about it.
It is incredible he remained decorous, when they started shouting at him.
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characterized by good taste in manners and conduct
Sally's parties are decorous affairs; and instead of the usual beer and music; there is tea and intellectual conversation.
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showing respect
If you ever have the chance to meet the president; stand up straight and be deferential.
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harmful to living things
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was deleterious to the fishing industry in the southern states.
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(or a creative product; e.g. music; writing; etc.) not original but drawing on the work of another person
Because the movies were utterly derivative of other popular movies; they did well at the box office. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE
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expecting unquestioning obedience; characteristic of an absolute ruler
The coach was dictatorial in his approach
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instructive (especially excessively)
Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Illyich is a didactic novel; instructing the reader on how to live a good life.
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showing modest reserve; lacking self-confidence
As a young girl she was diffident and reserved; but now as an adult; she is confident and assertive.
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wasting time
Lawyers use dilatory tactics so that it takes years before the case is actually decided.
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discontented as toward authority
After watching his superior take rations from the soliders; he quickly became disaffected and rebeled.
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individually separate and distinct
What was once known as Czechoslovakia has since split into two discrete; independent nations.
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unbiased; neutral
The potential juror knew the defendant; and therefore could not serve on the jury; which must consist only of disinterested members.
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unaffected by strong emotion or prejudice
A good scientist should be dispassionate; focusing purely on what the evidence says; without personal attachment.
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highly opinionated; not accepting that your belief may not be correct
Bryan is dogmatic in his belief that the earth is flat; claiming that all pictures of a spherical earth are computer generated.
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comprised of a variety of styles
"Joey was known for his eclectic tastes in music; one moment dancing to disco the next ""air conducting"" along to Beethoven's 9th symphony."
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avoiding waste; efficient
Journalists favor an economical style of writing; in which no unnecessary words are used and every sentence is as short as possible.
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enlightening or uplifting so as to encourage intellectual or moral improvement
I recently read an article in the Times about whether good literature is edifying or not; specifically; does reading more make a person more moral.
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producing the intended result
Since Maggie's cough syrup; which had expired five years back; was no longer efficacious; she coughed through the night.
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standing out in negative way; shockingly bad
The dictator's abuse of human rights was so egregious that many world leaders asked that he be tried in an international court for genocide.
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standing above others in quality or position
Shakespeare is an eminent author in the English language; but I find his writing uninteresting and melodramatic.
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fixed firmly or securely
By the time we reach 60-years old; most of our habits are so entrenched that it is difficult for us to change.
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lasting a very short time
The lifespan of a mayfly is ephemeral; lasting from a few hours to a couple of days.
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confusing or ambiguous
The findings of the study were equivocal--the two researchers had different opinions on what the results signified.
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having or showing profound knowledge
Before the Internet; the library was typically were you would find erudite readers.
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intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest
Map collecting is an esoteric hobby to most; but to geography geeks it is a highly enjoyable pasttime.
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requiring and demanding accuracy
Though his childhood piano teacher was so exacting; Max is thankful now; as a professional pianist.
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the opposite of extinct
Despite many bookstores closing; experts predict that some form of book dealing will still be extant generations from now.
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of a belief that is based on faulty reasoning
The widespread belief that Eskimos have forty different words for snow is fallacious; based on one false report.
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overly concerned with details; fussy
Whitney is fastidious about her shoes; arranging them on a shelf in a specific order; each pair evenly spaced.
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marked by or showing hopelessness
After her third pet dog died; Marcia was simply forlorn: this time even the possibility of buying a new dog no longer held any joy.
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at ease in talking to others
As a husband; Larry was not forthcoming: if Jill didn't demand to know details; Larry would never share them with her.
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occurring by happy chance; having no cause or apparent cause
While the real objects are vastly different sizes in space; the sun and the moon seem to have the same fortuitous size in the sky.
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not serious in content or attitude or behavior
Compared to Juliet's passionate concern for human rights; Jake's non-stop concern about football seems somewhat frivolous.
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not spending much money (but spending wisely)
Monte was no miser; but was simply frugal; wisely spending the little that he earned.
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marked by quiet and caution and secrecy; taking pains to avoid being observed
While at work; George and his boss Regina felt the need to be as furtive as possible about their romantic relationship.;
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full of trivial conversation
Lynne was garrulous: once; she had a fifteen minute conversation with a stranger before she realized the woman didn't speak English.
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lacking social polish; socially awkward
Sylvester says the most gauche things; such as telling a girl he liked that she was much prettier when she wore makeup.
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relevant and appropriate
The professor wanted to tell the jury in detail about his new book; but the lawyer said it wasn't germane to the charges in the cases.
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characterized by unusual lightness and delicacy
The gossamer wings of a butterfly; which allow it to fly; are also a curse; so delicate that they are often damaged.
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to be likely to socialize with others
Often we think that great leaders are those who are gregarious; always in the middle of a large group of people; yet; as Mahatma Gandhi and many others have shown us; leaders can also be introverted.
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free of deceit
At first I thought my niece was guileless; but I then found myself buying her ice cream every time we passed a shop.
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lacking significance through having been overused
"Cheryl rolled her eyes when she heard the lecturer's hackneyed advice to ""be true to yourself."""
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marked by great carelessness; dependent upon or characterized by chance
Many golf courses are designed with great care; but the greens on the county golf course seem entirely haphazard.
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troubled persistently especially with petty annoyances
With a team of new hires to train; Martha was constantly harried with little questions and could not focus on her projects.
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having or showing arrogant superiority to and disdain of those one views as unworthy
The haughty manager didn't believe that any of his subordinates could ever have an insight as brilliant his own.
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dominance over a certain area
Until the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1587; Spain had hegemony over the seas; controlling waters stretching as far as the Americas.
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defying tradition or convention
Jackson Pollack was an iconoclastic artist; totally breaking with tradition by splashing paint on a blank canvas.
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In the 1920s; the World Series was rigged--an ignoble act which baseball took decades to recover from.
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(used of conduct or character) deserving or bringing disgrace or shame
Since the politician preached ethics and morality; his texting of revealing photographs was ignominious; bringing shame on both himself and his party.
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not able to be changed
Taxes are one of the immutable laws of the land; so there is no use arguing about paying them.
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free from undue bias or preconceived opinions
The judge was not impartial since he had been bribed by the witness's family.
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being disrespectful; improperly forward or bold
Dexter; distraught over losing his pet dachshund; Madeline; found the police officer's questions impertinent--after all; he thought; did she have to pry into such details as to what Madeline's favorite snack was?
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incapable of making less angry or hostile
Win or lose; the coach was always implacable; never giving the athletes an easy practice or a break.
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describing a statement that is not believable
The teacher found it implausible that the student was late to school because he had been kidnapped by outlaws on horseback.
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not wise
Hitler; like Napoleon; made the imprudent move of invading Russia in winter; suffering even more casualties than Napoleon had.
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improperly forward or bold
In an impudent move; the defendant spoke out of order to say terribly insulting things to the judge.
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having or demonstrating ability to recognize or draw fine distinctions
The lawyer had an incisive mind; able in a flash to dissect a hopelessly tangled issue and isolate the essential laws at play.
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lacking in harmony or compatibility or appropriateness
The vast economic inequality of modern society is incongruous with America's ideals.
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impervious to correction by punishment
Tom Sawyer seems like an incorrigible youth until Huck Finn enters the novel; even Sawyer can't match his fierce individual spirit.
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not in keeping with accepted standards of what is right or proper in polite society
Eating with elbows on the table is considered indecorous in refined circles.
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impossible to stop or prevent
The rise of the computer was an inexorable shift in technology and culture.
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to be naïve and innocent
Two-years in Manhattan had changed Jenna from an ingenuous girl from the suburbs to a jaded urbanite; unlikely to fall for any ruse; regardless of how elaborate.
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hostile (usually describes conditions or environments)
Venus; with a surface temperature that would turn rubber to liquid; is inimical to any form of life.
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" harmless and doesn""t produce any ill effects"
Everyone found Nancy's banter innocuous--except for Mike; who felt like she was intentionally picking on him.
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not easily understood; unfathomable
His speech was so dense and confusing that many in the audience found it inscrutable.
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working in a subtle but destructive way
Plaque is insidious: we cannot see it; but each day it eats away at our enamel; causing cavities and other dental problems.
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rude and arrogant
Lilian could not help herself from being insolent; commenting that the Queen's shoes were showing too much toe.
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unwilling to change one's beliefs or course of action
Despite many calls for mercy; the judge remained intransigent; citing strict legal precedence.
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Captain Ahab was an intrepid captain whose reckless and fearless style ultimate leads to his downfall.
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He is an inveterate smoker and has told his family and friends that there is no way he will ever quit.
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complicated; and difficult to comprehend
The physics lecture became so involved that the undergraduate's eyes glazed over.
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incapable of being retracted or revoked
Once you enter your plea to the court; it is irrevocable so think carefully about what you will say.
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traveling from place to place to work
Doctors used to be itinerant; traveling between patients' homes.
For someone who has just broken up you look quite jovial.
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full of or showing high-spirited merriment
The political candidate and his supporters were jovial once it was clear that she had won.
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full of high-spirited delight because of triumph or success
My hardwork paid off; and I was jubilant to receive a perfect score on the GRE.
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one who says very few words
While Martha always swooned over the hunky; laconic types in romantic comedies; her boyfriends inevitably were very talkative--and not very hunky.
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not inclined towards physical exertion or effort; slow and relaxed
As the sun beat down and the temperature climbed higher; we spent a languid week lying around the house.
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worthy of high praise
To say that Gandhi's actions were laudable is the greatest understatement; he overthrew an empire without violence.
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noble and generous in spirit; especially towards a rival or someone less powerful
He was a great sportsman: in defeat he was complementary and in victory he was magnanimous.
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As a child she was quite maladroit; but as an adult; she has become an adept dancer. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE
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overly sentimental to the point that it is disgusting
The film was incredibly mawkish; introducing highly likeable characters only to have them succumb to a devastating illnesses by the end of the movie.
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(of a person) prone to unexpected and unpredictable changes in mood
The fact that Ella's moods were as mercurial as the weather was problematic for her relationships--it didn't help that she lived in Chicago.
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marked by extreme care in treatment of details
The Japanese noodle maker was meticulous in making his noodles and would never let another person take over the task.
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relating to the ordinary world
Though we think of the pope as someone always dealing in holy matters; he is also concerned with mundane events; such as deciding when to set his alarm each morning.
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very generous
Uncle Charley was known for his munificence; giving all seven of his nephews lavish Christmas presents each year.
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lacking foresight or imagination
The company ultimately went out of business because the myopic managers couldn't predict the changes in their industry. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE
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so small as to be meaningless; insignificant
The GRE tests cumulative knowledge; so if you cram the night before it is; at best; likely to only have a negligible impact on your score.
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known by only a few
Many of the biggest movie stars were once obscure actors who got only bit roles in long forgotten films. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE
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attentive in an ingratiating or servile manner; attempting to win favor from influential people by flattery
The obsequious waiter did not give the couple a moment's peace all through the meal; constantly returning to their table to refill their water glasses and to tell them what a handsome pair they made.
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not clearly understood or expressed
The meaning of the professor's new research was opaque to most people; so no one asked any questions. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE
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intended to attract notice and impress others; tawdry or vulgar
Matt wanted to buy stone lions for front of the house; but Cynthia convinced him that such a display would be too ostentatious for a modest house in an unassuming neighborhood.
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narrowly restricted in scope or outlook
"Jasmine was sad to admit it; but her fledgling relationship with Jacob did not work out because his culinary tastes were simply too parochial; ""After all;"" she quipped on her blog; ""he considered Chef Boyardee ethnic food."""
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extremely frugal; miserly
Katie is so parsimonious that she only buys a pair of socks if all of her other socks have holes in them.
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too worried about rules or details
Professor Thompson was regarded as an expert in his field, but his lectures were utterly pedantic; focused on rigorous details of the most trivial conventions in the field
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lacking imagination
While Nan was always engaged in philosophical speculation; her brother was occupied with far more pedestrian concerns: how to earn a salary and run a household. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE
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expressing disapproval (usu. refers to a term)
"Most psychologists object to the pejorative term ""shrink""; believing that they expand the human mind; not limit it. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE"
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exceedingly harmful; working or spreading in a hidden and injurious way
The most successful viruses are pernicious
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easily irritated or annoyed
When Ed first met Ruth; he didn't realize she was so petulant; but now that they are three months into their relationship; Ed feels a day doesn't go by in which she isn't whining about some minor issue.
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emotionally touching
After the Montagues and Capulets discover the dead bodies of Romeo and Juliet; in the play's most poignant moment; the two griefstricken familes agree to end their feud once and for all. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one f
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guided by practical experience and observation rather than theory
Rather than make a philosophical appeal to the Congressmen; the Speaker decided to take a far more pragmatic approach; making small side-deals that would add votes to his bill.
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done with very great haste and without due deliberation
"He was expecting a precipitous rise in the value of a ""hot"" tech stock; so he was disappointed when it only inched up a dollar or two each day."
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characterized by or characteristic of exceptionally early development or maturity (especially in mental aptitude)
Though only seven years old; she was a precocious chess prodigy; able to beat players twice her age.
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rashly or wastefully extravagant
Successful professional athletes who do not fall prey to prodigality seem to be the exception--most live decadent lives.
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so great in size or force or extent as to elicit awe
"After the relatively small homerun totals in the ""dead ball"" era; Babe Ruth's homerun totals were truly prodigious: every year; he set a new all-time record."
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spending money recklessly or wastefully
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(of a plant, animal, or person) producing much fruit or foliage or many offspring; intellectually productive
Schubert was the most prolific composer; producing hundreds of hours of music before he died at the age of 31.
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presenting favorable circumstances; likely to result in or show signs of success
The child's heartbeat is still weak; but I am seeing many propitious signs and I think that she may be healing.
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characteristic of the a limited perspective; not fashionable or sophisticated
Maggie's enthusiasm about her high school teams seemed provincial to her college classmates; all of whom were following a nationally ranked college team.
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to be legally competent or capable
If James had made more than $50;000 last year; then he wouldn't have qualified for the low-income scholarship.
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habitually complaining
The querulous old woman was begining to wear down even the happier members of the staff with her ceaseless complaining.
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found in the ordinary course of events
Phil gets so involved thinking about Aristotle's arguments that he totally forgets quotidian concerns; such as exercising and eating regularly.
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extremely hungry; devouring or craving food in great quantities
John didn't each much at all during the week he had the flu; so now that he is regaining his health; it's not surpring that he has a ravenous appetite.
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difficult to penetrate; incomprehensible to one of ordinary understanding or knowledge
I found Ulysses recondite and never finished the book; waiting instead to read it with someone else so we could penetrate its meaning together.
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stubbornly resistant to authority or control
Used to studious high school students; Martha was unprepared for the refractory Kindgergarteners who neither sat still nor listened to a single word she said. This word has other definitions but this is the most important one for the GRE
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The crowd grew restive as the comedian's opening jokes fell flat.
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rising again as to new life and vigor
The team sank to fourth place in June; but is now resurgent and about to win the division.
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not revealing one's thoughts or feelings readily
When asked about her father, Helen lost her outward enthusiasm and became rather reticent.
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feeling or showing profound respect or veneration
The professor could speak objectively about the other composers; but he always lectured about Brahms with a particularly reverent air; unable to offer a single criticism of his compositions.
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being in the earliest stages of development; being or involving basic facts or principles
I would love to be able to present a fully polished proposal to the board; but right now; our plans for the product are still in the most rudimentary stages.
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characteristic of rural life; awkwardly simple and provincial
The vacation cabin had no electricity and no indoor plumbing; but despite these inconveniences; Nigel adored its rustic charm.
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having a sense of right and wrong; principled
Everyone trusted what he said and followed his example because he was scrupulous and honest.
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inducing mental lethargy; sleep inducing
Although the professor is brilliant; his bland monotone gives his lectures a soporific effect.
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plausible but false
He made a career out of specious arguments and fictional lab results; but lost his job and reputation when his lies were exposed by an article in The New York Times.
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recurring in scattered and irregular or unpredictable instances
The signals were at first sporadic; but now we detect a clear; consistent pattern of electromagnetic radiation eminating from deep space.
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plausible but false
When listening to a politician speak; it is hard to distinguish the spurious claims from the authentic ones.
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firm and dependable especially in loyalty
No longer a staunch supporter of the movement; Todd now will openly question whether its goals are worthwhile.
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demanding strict attention to rules and procedures
Most of the students disliked the teacher because of his stringent homework policy; but many students would later thank him for demanding so much from them.
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in opposition to a civil authority or government
The ruling political party has begun a campaign to shut down subversive websites that it deems as a threat to "national safety."
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showing a brooding ill humor
Herbert took board games too seriously; often appearing sullen after losing.
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more than is needed; desired; or required
Everything in this closet is superfluous and can be given to charity.
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habitually reserved and uncommunicative
While the CEO enthusiastically shares his plans and agenda with all who will listen; the CFO is far more taciturn; rarely revealing his perspective.
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being essentially equal to something
In many situations; remaining silent is tantamount to admitting guilt; so speak to prove your innocence.
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moderated in effect
The wide-eyed optimism of her youth was now tempered after she had worked many years in the criminal justice system.
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stubbornly unyielding
Even the most tenacious advocates for gun ownership must admit some of the dangers that firearms present.
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timid by nature or revealing fear and nervousness
Since this was her first time debating on stage and before an audience; Di's voice was timorous and quiet for the first 10 minutes.
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marked by repeated turns and bends; not straightforward
Because the logic behind McMahon's side of the debate was so tortuous; his audience came out either completely confused or; worse; feeling they'd been tricked.
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readily reacting to suggestions and influences; easily managed (controlled or taught or molded)
Compared to middle school students; who have an untamed wildness about them; high school students are somewhat more tractable.
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lasting a very short time
The unpredictable and transient nature of deja vu makes it a very difficult phenomenon to study properly.
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dangerously unstable and unpredictable
The bridge built from twine and vine is treacherous to walk across; and so I think I will stay put right here.
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repeated too often; overfamiliar through overuse
Many style guides recommend not using idioms in writing because these trite expressions are uninteresting and show a lack of imagination on the part of the writer.
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to weaken (usually paired with an abstract term)
The student undermined the teacher's authority by questioning the teacher's judgment on numerous occasions.
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admitting of no doubt or misunderstanding; having only one meaning or interpretation and leading to only one conclusion
The President's first statement on the subject was vague and open to competing interpretations; so when he spoke to Congress about the same subject later; he was cafeful to make his position completely unequivocal.
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without scruples or principles
In the courtroom; the lawyer was unscrupulous; using every manner of deceit and manipulation to secure a victory for himself.
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marked by extreme intensity of emotions or convictions
While the other employees responded to the bad news in a measured way; Andrew responded in a vehement manner; tipping over his desk and shouting at the top of his lungs.
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While we elect our leaders in the hope that every word they speak will be veracious; history has shown that such a hope is naive.
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conspicuously and offensively loud; given to vehement outcry
In giving Marcia a particular vociferous response; Paul caused people at every other table in the restaurant to turn around an look at them angrily.
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She did not think her vocabulary was wanting; yet there were so many words that inevitably she found a few she didn't know.
The winsome painting reminded me of my childhood days.
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charming in a childlike or naive way
She was winsome by nature; and many people were drawn to this free and playful spirit.

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