Most Frequent GRE Words
Research-Based Guide

Last Updated On: June 8, 2021

When a person thinks about the GRE verbal section, I’m sure they are imagining many obscure and difficult vocab words. Well, that really happens to be true.

The GRE test is full of questions relating to the definition of words. GRE vocabulary words can be tricky for some students, but the good news is that you can easily learn the definition of common GRE words to improve your score.

In this guide, my team and I gathered as many published GRE vocabulary words as we could to determine the most common words that show up on the GRE test. We will give you some tips and tricks to help you learn new terms and crush the difficult vocab questions.

What to Expect on the Verbal Section of the GRE?

A student with her instructor

You should expect 2 sections with 20 questions each on the verbal section of the GRE. You will have 30 minutes to complete each section.

The verbal part of the GRE will have sentence equivalence, reading comprehension, and text completion questions [1]. All of these question types will require the test-taker to be familiar with GRE vocabulary words on test day.

How to Improve Your GRE Vocabulary

Understand Your Baseline

Before you start your GRE journey, you should understand your vocabulary baseline. In the same way that we recommend you understand your baseline GRE score, you must have an idea of your vocabulary level.

Once you know your baseline, you should set up a target score for the GRE verbal reasoning section. Then, you will have a better idea of how many GRE terms you need to learn each day.

Commit to Reading

One of the best ways to improve your GRE vocabulary words is to read more. To be honest, reading is the best way to improve your daily vocabulary as well. You should try to read often and choose materials that might challenge you to learn new words.

You can choose books or news articles that are interesting to you, but make sure they have really unknown words. This will help support or strengthen your current GRE vocabulary before the test.

Dictionary Definition

A close up image of a dictionary definition

The dictionary will become your new best friend before you take the test.

You should really keep it by your side to study and practice common words daily. The dictionary will be your best source of information during your GRE prep.

When you are reading, circle every word you are not sure of the meaning. Create a word list and look up those words when you are done. Focus on learning the definition of the new word, so you can easily practice it.

You might want to write it down and try to commit it to memory. You should also be familiar with what a noun, adjective, verb, and pronoun is to help you during the test.

Do not forget about the secondary definitions for words. Sometimes the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the makers of the GRE, will rely on these definitions for some of their GRE questions.

Create Your Own Definition

Another study tip is to put the definition into your own words. Think of a way that will help you remember a new word.

Repeat GRE Words Out Loud

Woman reading out loud

One of the best ways to learn new words, languages, or ideas is to repeat them back to someone. If you have to repeat a word and definition to a group, then you are more likely to commit it to memory.

Once you grasp a concept, a good way to test your understanding is to explain it to someone else.

If you don’t have anyone to listen to you, repeat the words and definitions of the words you are learning aloud. It might help you to hear the vocab words in your own voice.

Keep a GRE Word List

You must remember both new and old words when you are studying for the GRE. We recommend keeping a GRE word list with you at all times. It might sound silly to carry this around, but it might help you learn and use new words while you are doing daily activities.

You can also highlight and mark words on your list that you might need to study more. For example, you can highlight words you know well in yellow and words you still struggle with, in blue. Students should reference this list often. You can also find free GRE prep lists, which can help you study common words.

Utilize Flashcards

We cannot stress this point enough. Test-takers should be using flashcards to prepare for the GRE. These are some of the most essential tools you can use, especially for learning GRE vocabulary words.

You can flip back and forth between flashcards and your GRE vocabulary list. Students can use flashcards in a group to quiz their friends or even create a game when trying to learn common GRE words.

You can make a flashcard for every GRE word you come across. This can help students understand and learn words for the test.

Understand Roots

Highlighting important keywords while reviewing

One tip for understanding a GRE word quickly is to remember the Latin roots of the word. The science and medical community come across these terms all the time.

Learning the common roots of a word can also help you on the test. If you come across a word you are unfamiliar with, you can analyze its root to understand its meaning.

For example, the Latin prefix “circum-” means around and is found in words like circumvent and circumnavigate. You know if you see a word you do not know with the prefix “circum-” it is likely to mean around.

This can help you eliminate incorrect answer choices.

Another example is the Latin suffix “-cede”, which means to go or yield. It is found in words like concede and exceeds. If you read up on Latin roots, you will have a better chance of understanding common words you may not yet know the meaning of.

Use New GRE Words

Everyone wants to sound smart in conversation. Well, now is your chance. Students should make a point to use a new common GRE word whenever possible. This is great for GRE practice. Every GRE word you use in conversation will help you commit that word to memory. You can also practice using a new GRE word in a sentence by writing them down.


You can create a mental image of each new word you learn before the exam. We recommend associating a new word with a mental picture of what that word means. Many people are visual learners, so it might even help you to draw pictures next to each definition.

Vocabulary for GRE Math

We know GRE vocab is primarily focused on the verbal part of the exam, but don’t forget about GRE math vocabulary. Some of the terms you will find in the math section might be new to you. Remember to learn those new terms and apply them on exam day.

30 Common GRE Vocabulary Words

A collection of most common GRE words
GRE Words  Part of Speech Definition 
Pragmatic ADJ dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.
Ephemeral ADJ lasting for a very short time.
Capricious ADJ given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.
Vacillate Verb alternate or waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive.
Reticent ADJ not revealing one's thoughts or feelings readily.
Loquacious ADJ tending to talk a great deal; talkative.
Erudite ADJ having or showing great knowledge or learning.
Soporific ADJ tending to induce drowsiness or sleep.
Fastidious ADJ very attentive to and concerned about accuracy and detail.
Garrulous ADJ excessively talkative, especially on trivial matters.
Anomaly Noun something different, abnormal, peculiar, or not easily classified
Assuage Verb make (an unpleasant feeling) less intense.
Equivocal ADJ open to more than one interpretation; ambiguous.
Dessicate Verb to remove the moisture from something so it becomes completely dry
Laudable ADJ (of an idea or goal) deserving praise and commendation.
Enervate Verb cause (someone) to feel drained of energy or vitality; weaken.
Laconic ADJ using or involving the use of a minimum of words
Obdurate ADJ stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or course of action.
Dyspeptic ADJ of or having indigestion or consequent irritability or depression.
Ersatz ADJ (of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else.
Extant ADJ currently or actually existing
Halcyon ADJ denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
Hermetic ADJ (of a seal or closure) complete and airtight.
Lachrymose ADJ tearful or given to weeping.
Magnate ADJ a wealthy and influential person, especially in business.
Profligate ADJ recklessly extravagant or wasteful in the use of resources.
Obsequious ADJ obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree.
Corroborate Verb confirm or give support to (a statement, theory, or finding).
Alacrity Noun brisk and cheerful readiness.
Orthodox ADJ (of a person or their views, especially religious or political ones, or other beliefs or practices) conforming to what  is generally or traditionally accepted as right or true; established and approved.

What Are the Most Common GRE Vocabulary Words?

We know how confusing some of the vocabulary terms on the GRE can be, which is why we wanted to make this guide to help you bolster your vocab and ace the exam.

We have covered all the basic tips and tricks to whip your GRE word use into high gear. After many hours of research, we have narrowed down a list of the most commonly used GRE words and their meaning. Use our word cheat sheet to help you succeed before the big day.


  1. https://www.kaptest.com/study/gre/whats-on-the-gre-gre-verbal-section/#:~:text=In%20each%20GRE%20Verbal%20section,question%2C%20depending%20on%20the%20type.

About the author

William Cohen

William Cohen

William is an electrical engineer whose great passion is helping promising students achieve their goals and dreams. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring learners from all over the world.

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