GRE Verbal : Understanding the Meaning of Words in Single-Answer Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

"Idioms and Rhyming Slang" by Will Floyd

While dialects and slang exist in most corners of the world, a few peculiar language habits stand out as developing entirely new ways of speaking. Most famously, the rhyming Cockney slang of East London that developed in the late nineteenth century has created many different idioms. The process of creating rhyming slang appears quite simple. A common word gets replaced by a phrase whose terminal syllable rhymes with the word. Thus, “wife” would become “trouble and strife,” except rhyming slang quite frequently does not stop there. Remarkably, the rhyming component of the phrase is often dropped altogether, so that wife is actually just “trouble.” Other notable examples is “stairs” becoming “apples,” from “apples and pears,” and “bottle” becoming “aris,” shortened from “Aristotle.”

Obviously, this can lead to quite a bit of confusion to a person unfamiliar with rhyming slang, or someone who does not know the full rhymes. This problem is exacerbated by the fluidity of rhyming slang. Celebrities and politicians can often lend their names to new forms, and “Britney Spears” has become a term for “beers” in recent years. This confusion may actually have been an intentional aspect of rhyming slang. Theories abound about the origin of rhyming slang, with the one constant being a form of deception by the people using the slang, with the language of shady shopkeepers or the doubletalk of thieves as the most commonly cited examples. No matter the origin, rhyming Cockney slang is a true innovation on the English language.

The phrase "this confusion" in the passage refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

the process by which rhyming slang lopped off the final rhyme in the phrase being used as slang

the way in which people unfamiliar with rhyming slang do not understand all of its permutations

the way rhyming slang is used by the lower classes in society

rhyming slang being used primarily in London

rhyming slang adding new terms over time

Correct answer:

the way in which people unfamiliar with rhyming slang do not understand all of its permutations

Explanation:

"This confusion" appears immediately after a sentence discussing how celebrities' names can get incorporated into rhyming Cockney slang. Further, it is stated after this that such slang is intentionally misleading; therefore, "this confusion" refers to the way people unfamiliar with the practice can get easily mixed up about rhyming slang.

Example Question #2 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from Seven Discourses on Art, by Joshua Reynolds

All the objects which are exhibited to our view by nature, upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. The most beautiful forms have something about them like weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every eye that perceives these blemishes. It must be an eye long used to the contemplation and comparison of these forms—and which, by a long habit of observing what any set of objects of the same kind have in common, that alone can acquire the power of discerning what each wants in particular. This long laborious comparison should be the first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. By this means, he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms; he corrects nature by herself, her imperfect state by her more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of things from their general figures, he makes out an abstract idea of their forms more perfect than any one original—and what may seem a paradox, he learns to design naturally by drawing his figures unlike to any one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great leading principle by which works of genius are conducted. By this, Phidias acquired his fame. He wrought upon a sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm of the world—and by this method you, who have courage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputation.

The word "paradox" in the passage means __________.

Possible Answers:

seemingly contradictory ideas held at the same time

a flaw in nature

an artist's rendering of an object

the leading principle of art

a painter's tool

Correct answer:

seemingly contradictory ideas held at the same time

Explanation:

The "paradox" referred to in the passage is that an artist draws "naturally" objects "unlike any one object." This seemingly contradictory statement perfectly fits the definition of "paradox."

Example Question #3 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from The Frontier in American History, by Frederick Jackson Turner

But the larger part of what has been distinctive and valuable in America's contribution to the history of the human spirit has been due to this nation's peculiar experience in extending its type of frontier into new regions—and in creating peaceful societies with new ideals in the successive vast and differing geographic provinces which together make up the United States. Directly or indirectly these experiences shaped the life of both the Eastern and Western States, and even reacted upon the Old World, influencing the direction of its thought and progress. This experience has been fundamental in the economic, political, and social characteristics of the American people and in their conceptions of their destiny.

Writing at the close of 1796, the French minister to the United States, M. Adet, reported to his government that Jefferson could not be relied on to be devoted to French interests, and he added that "Jefferson, I say, is American, and by that name, he cannot be sincerely our friend. An American is the born enemy of all European peoples." Obviously erroneous as are these words, there was an element of truth in them. If we would understand this element of truth, we must study the transforming influence of the American wilderness, remote from Europe, and by its resources and its free opportunities affording the conditions under which a new people, with new social and political types and ideals, could arise to play its own part in the world, and to influence Europe.

The word "fundamental" in the passage means __________.

Possible Answers:

incidental and circumstantial

frivolous and ridiculous

economically advantageous

important and necessary

politically consequential

Correct answer:

important and necessary

Explanation:

What is mentioned as being "fundamental" is the experience of the wilderness, and also that it affects the "economic, political, and social characteristics of the American people." To have such a widespread influence, the experience must be important and necessary.

Example Question #4 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from The Frontier in American History, by Frederick Jackson Turner

But the larger part of what has been distinctive and valuable in America's contribution to the history of the human spirit has been due to this nation's peculiar experience in extending its type of frontier into new regions—and in creating peaceful societies with new ideals in the successive vast and differing geographic provinces which together make up the United States. Directly or indirectly these experiences shaped the life of both the Eastern and Western States, and even reacted upon the Old World, influencing the direction of its thought and progress. This experience has been fundamental in the economic, political, and social characteristics of the American people and in their conceptions of their destiny.

Writing at the close of 1796, the French minister to the United States, M. Adet, reported to his government that Jefferson could not be relied on to be devoted to French interests, and he added that "Jefferson, I say, is American, and by that name, he cannot be sincerely our friend. An American is the born enemy of all European peoples." Obviously erroneous as are these words, there was an element of truth in them. If we would understand this element of truth, we must study the transforming influence of the American wilderness, remote from Europe, and by its resources and its free opportunities affording the conditions under which a new people, with new social and political types and ideals, could arise to play its own part in the world, and to influence Europe.

"Obviously erroneous" in the passage means __________.

Possible Answers:

false and incorrect

authentic and genuine

irascible and troublesome

verifiable and truthful

ebullient and excited

Correct answer:

false and incorrect

Explanation:

The "obviously erroneous" statement is that "An American is the born enemy of all European peoples." While the author believes Americans are different, he does not see them as enemies, therefore the statement is false and incorrect.

Example Question #5 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

A Short History of Recent Zoos, by Will Floyd

Throughout the twentieth century, zoos underwent large-scale transformations. Before World War I, zoos were small parts of larger municipal parks, and featured sparse cages with little room for their inhabitants. This model held sway until mid-century, with many zoos struggling to remain open during the Great Depression and World War II. The successful zoos survived through making themselves cheap family entertainment. In the 1960s, zoos began to change in drastic ways. With the growing strength of environmental- and animal-rights movements, the public clamored for more naturalistic and spacious environments in which the animals could live.

The most emblematic of these transformations was the development of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1966, the cramped and antiquated zoo used grants from the city government to move to a brand-new facility. Although the zoo moved just two miles away, the new location was exponentially bigger, and it featured fresh landscapes that resembled the animals’ natural habitats, instead of dilapidated cages. As the Los Angeles Zoo developed, it was able to work on preservation and conservation efforts for endangered species. New educational programs also became key elements of the Zoo’s mission. Now the old Zoo’s cages stand as ruins and reminders of what past generations saw when they visited years ago.

The word "antiquated" in the passage means __________.

Possible Answers:

outdated and old

archetypal and perfect

 enigmatic and fresh

contemporary and fresh

naturalistic and attractive

Correct answer:

outdated and old

Explanation:

The zoo is referred to as "antiquated" when the passage mentions it is moving "to a brand-new facility." This indicates the old location was "outdated and old."

Example Question #6 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

A Short History of Recent Zoos, by Will Floyd

Throughout the twentieth century, zoos underwent large-scale transformations. Before World War I, zoos were small parts of larger municipal parks, and featured sparse cages with little room for their inhabitants. This model held sway until mid-century, with many zoos struggling to remain open during the Great Depression and World War II. The successful zoos survived through making themselves cheap family entertainment. In the 1960s, zoos began to change in drastic ways. With the growing strength of environmental- and animal-rights movements, the public clamored for more naturalistic and spacious environments in which the animals could live.

The most emblematic of these transformations was the development of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1966, the cramped and antiquated zoo used grants from the city government to move to a brand-new facility. Although the zoo moved just two miles away, the new location was exponentially bigger, and it featured fresh landscapes that resembled the animals’ natural habitats, instead of dilapidated cages. As the Los Angeles Zoo developed, it was able to work on preservation and conservation efforts for endangered species. New educational programs also became key elements of the Zoo’s mission. Now the old Zoo’s cages stand as ruins and reminders of what past generations saw when they visited years ago.

The word"dilapidated" in the passage means __________.

Possible Answers:

simple and undecorated

functional and useful

small and miniature

refurbished and renovated

worn out and falling down

Correct answer:

worn out and falling down

Explanation:

The "dilapidated cages" are directly contrasted with the "fresh landscapes" in the zoo's new location. This means that "dilapidated" most closely means "worn out and falling down."

Example Question #7 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

Developments in Understanding Ancient Greek Art by Will Floyd

Most people imagine stark white temples and plain marble statues as the ideal of ancient Greek art. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the ancient Greeks lavished their statues, sculptures, and buildings with bright colors. The common misconception of plainly adorned Hellenic art can be blamed on the ancient Greeks’ biggest proponents in history. Enlightenment-era classicists eagerly visited ancient ruins in the eighteenth century and saw artifacts that had been weathered to plain white stone through decades of neglect. By the time nineteenth-century archaeologists found proof that the Parthenon and images of the Gods were meant to be in vivid hues, eminent scholars in Europe refused to countenance that pure white marble was not antiquity’s aesthetic paradigm. Widespread acknowledgement of the ancient Greeks’ adoration of bright colors only came in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as scientific tests proved ancient statuary and buildings had once been covered in polychrome paint.

The word "vivid" in the passage means __________.

Possible Answers:

dull and uninspired

excellent and perfect

impressive and majestic

bright and brilliant

mysterious and confusing

Correct answer:

bright and brilliant

Explanation:

The term "vivid hues" is used to describe the painting style, also referred to in the passage as "bright colors" and "polychrome," or multiple colored. Thus, the answer that best fits the use of "vivid" in the passage is "bright and brilliant."

Example Question #8 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

The Chemistry of Cooking by Will Floyd

Molecular gastronomy is a new take on cooking that has spread like wildfire through the culinary world in the last few decades. At its core, molecular gastronomy seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked in restaurant kitchens, using technology, chemistry, and physics to transform pedestrian dishes into surprising forms and textures. These techniques create mystifying dining experiences, while using intimately familiar flavors. Chefs who use molecular gastronomy do not wish merely to be chemists or engineers, but are chefs above all else. To create a special dining experience, the chef begins first and foremost with the dish they wish to serve. Tools like an anti-griddle, a flat top that instantly freezes anything that touches it, or maltodextrin, an additive that can turn liquids into powder, are not there simply to play with the food. A molecular gastronomist will first think of the dish they want to serve, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Next, they will find a way to get the same flavors and textures in a unique way. The chicken might not be fried, but go through a process that will give it a crispy skin and juicy meat while never broaching hot oil. The mashed potatoes could become a light sauce, and then be put on an anti-griddle to give a new look, texture, and temperature. While the diner will have something that might look like a dessert or a soup, in actuality what they are having is a homestyle dish that they remember from childhood. This sense of familiarity is the ultimate goal of any chef utilizing molecular gastronomy.

The word "pedestrian" in the selection means __________.

Possible Answers:

ordinary and common.

innovative and groundbreaking.

contemporary and modern.

strange and unrelatable.

horrible and detestable.

Correct answer:

ordinary and common.

Explanation:

"Pedestrian" is used to refer to the dishes that are being transformed by "technology, chemistry, and physics" into "surprising forms and textures." This indicates the food that is "pedestrian" is the opposite of "surprising." "Ordinary and common" is the best choice among the answers.

Example Question #9 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

The Chemistry of Cooking by Will Floyd

Molecular gastronomy is a new take on cooking that has spread like wildfire through the culinary world in the last few decades. At its core, molecular gastronomy seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked in restaurant kitchens, using technology, chemistry, and physics to transform pedestrian dishes into surprising forms and textures. These techniques create mystifying dining experiences, while using intimately familiar flavors. Chefs who use molecular gastronomy do not wish merely to be chemists or engineers, but are chefs above all else. To create a special dining experience, the chef begins first and foremost with the dish they wish to serve. Tools like an anti-griddle, a flat top that instantly freezes anything that touches it, or maltodextrin, an additive that can turn liquids into powder, are not there simply to play with the food. A molecular gastronomist will first think of the dish they want to serve, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Next, they will find a way to get the same flavors and textures in a unique way. The chicken might not be fried, but go through a process that will give it a crispy skin and juicy meat while never broaching hot oil. The mashed potatoes could become a light sauce, and then be put on an anti-griddle to give a new look, texture, and temperature. While the diner will have something that might look like a dessert or a soup, in actuality what they are having is a homestyle dish that they remember from childhood. This sense of familiarity is the ultimate goal of any chef utilizing molecular gastronomy.

The word "mystifying" in the passage means __________.

Possible Answers:

ebullient and excitable.

regular and easy to approach.

confusing and hard to comprehend.

exciting and inspiring.

offensive and able to disparage.

Correct answer:

confusing and hard to comprehend.

Explanation:

The structure of the sentence that contains "mystifying" contrasts with "intimately familiar flavors." This indicates that the "dining experiences" described by "mystifying" are unfamiliar or not ordinary. "Confusing and hard to understand" is the best fit among the answer choices.

Example Question #10 : Understanding The Meaning Of Words In Single Answer Questions

The Chemistry of Cooking by Will Floyd

Molecular gastronomy is a new take on cooking that has spread like wildfire through the culinary world in the last few decades. At its core, molecular gastronomy seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked in restaurant kitchens, using technology, chemistry, and physics to transform pedestrian dishes into surprising forms and textures. These techniques create mystifying dining experiences, while using intimately familiar flavors. Chefs who use molecular gastronomy do not wish merely to be chemists or engineers, but are chefs above all else. To create a special dining experience, the chef begins first and foremost with the dish they wish to serve. Tools like an anti-griddle, a flat top that instantly freezes anything that touches it, or maltodextrin, an additive that can turn liquids into powder, are not there simply to play with the food. A molecular gastronomist will first think of the dish they want to serve, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Next, they will find a way to get the same flavors and textures in a unique way. The chicken might not be fried, but go through a process that will give it a crispy skin and juicy meat while never broaching hot oil. The mashed potatoes could become a light sauce, and then be put on an anti-griddle to give a new look, texture, and temperature. While the diner will have something that might look like a dessert or a soup, in actuality what they are having is a homestyle dish that they remember from childhood. This sense of familiarity is the ultimate goal of any chef utilizing molecular gastronomy.

The word "broaching" in the passage means __________.

Possible Answers:

approaching or penetrating.

negotiating or dealmaking.

stepping away.

confusing or befuddling.

avoiding or sidestepping.

Correct answer:

approaching or penetrating.

Explanation:

The word "broaching" is referenced with "hot oil" never coming near the chicken. This means "broaching" actually does mean approaching or penetrating, which is the best choice among the answers.

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