Manhattan Prep GRE Blog

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

Read more

A Plethora of Words for a Plethora


English has a lot of words for a lot.

Hmmn. How else could I say that sentence?

Of course, no mention of “plethora” on a vocabulary blog could go unaccompanied by this clip from the 1986 Steve Martin classic, ¡Three Amigos!, which famously coined the phrase “a plethora of piñatas.”


Greek Deities: Vocab in Harry Potter


Although there is undoubtedly more esoterica to unearth, this will be our final post on characters from Harry Potter. (Although we do have another post coming on magic spells in Harry Potter).

owlHermes the Owl is, of course, named after the Greek god Hermes, who gives us the word hermetic, as in “hermetically sealed.” This might seem a bit weird until you realize that Hermes was not only the god of commerce, invention, cunning, and theft, but also the god of alchemy, which undoubtedly required sealing things in jars. Hermes was called Mercury by the Romans, hence the word mercurial.

Apollyon Pringle (“caretaker at Hogwarts before Argus Filch”) takes his name from the Greek god Apollo, who gives us apollonian — “calm, ordered, rational, balanced.”

Of course, that word might remind you of Apollonia from Prince’s Purple Rain; interestingly, the name Apollonia was suggested by Prince for the actress based on the character Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone from The Godfather. And somehow, we can trace all that back to Apollo.

Call Me Ishmael


I was leaving Jack’s Stir Brewed Coffee on Front Street down by the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan when I was surprised to see — up around the second story of a building — the word circumambulate carved into stone:

I had to blow up the picture later (click to enlarge) to read that this is a quote from Moby Dick:

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall northward. What do you see? — Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep.

One synonym for bulwark is rampart, as in “O’er the ramparts we watched” from the Star-Spangled Banner. The word bulwark is used metaphorically much more often than is rampart, though. For instance, a person might say:

She purchased very tight pants and kept nothing in her refrigerator but vodka and aspirin: these were her bulwarks against weight gain.

Visual Dictionary: Cog


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

This is a cog. It is a small gearwheel.

Actually, the little teeth (“tenons”) coming out of it are called cogs, and the whole thing is can be called a cogwheel, but when most people say cog, especially in a metaphorical way, they mean the whole thing, the cogwheel.

In a literal sense, a cog or cogwheel “transmits successive motive force to a corresponding wheel or gear.” Usually, a lot of cogs work together, such as in this clockworks:

Metaphorically speaking, a cog is a person in a company or organization who does very routine tasks. If you’re a cog, you might be doing necessary work, but you might feel as though anyone could do your job, and as though you are not very significant. No one wants to be “a cog in the machine.”

Try this sample Antonyms problem:


Choose your own answer, then click “more.”

Read more