GRE Prep: Commonly confused words (Part 3)

GRE Prep: Commonly confused words (Part 3)

As part of our series on commonly confused words, this post will introduce a group of similar sounding A words that tend to be mixed up.

Let’s first take a quick glance at the 7 words in question:


Abjure   Abdicate   Abhor   Abrogate   Adjudicate   Arrogate   Adjourn


Getting slightly muddled?

Now let’s test how well we know each word. Here are five sentences with 7 blanks for each of the 7 words (note that you might have to use a different form of the word for each blank):


After declaring a ceasefire in 2010, the separatist armed group gave up its weapons and ____________ the path of violence it previously followed.

By _______________ to himself the right to publicly share the company’s financial information without his superior’s approval, the director was not only ________________ his professional responsibilities but effectively severing all personal relations he had with his superiors.

Having grown up in the Apartheid era, she ______________ all forms of racism.

As the aging ruler has had to ________________ almost every court session due to ill health, he finally decided to _____________ his throne after four decades.

The former judge was asked to _____________ the longstanding dispute between the trade union and the government.


Let’s start with the last sentence, which is highly context-specific:


The former judge was asked to _____________ the longstanding dispute between the trade union and the government.


A quick guess for the blank would be “resolve” or “arbitrate”. The only word of the 7 that approximates such a meaning is adjudicate (to settle judicially or to make a formal judgment on a disputed matter).

This should not be confused with abdicate (to renounce one’s throne). Knowing the meaning of this word allows us to fit it into its specific context. The only sentence in which this highly specific word seems to fit in is the penultimate:


As the aging ruler has had to ________________ almost every court session due to ill health, he finally decided to _____________ his throne after four decades.


Now, since the ruler had decided to give up his throne, it must be due to the negative effects of his health; a quick guess for the first blank would be “terminate” or “postpone”, thus leading us to the word adjourn (to suspend or postpone).

Three words down, four more to go. Let’s now go to the third sentence, which appears to have a simple structure:


Having grown up in the Apartheid era, she ______________ all forms of racism.


We know that the Apartheid era involved racial repression, so a quick guess for the blank would be “hated” or “rejected”. The only word that approximates such a meaning, clearly, is abhorred (regard with repugnance).

Now, we are only left with three words, abjure, abrogate and arrogate. Let’s try to fit one of them into the first sentence, which has only one blank:


After declaring a ceasefire in 2010, the separatist armed group gave up its weapons and ____________ the path of violence it previously followed.


Given that the group “gave up” its weapons, it must mean that it “renounced” or “rejected” its previous path of violence. Of the three words left, two come close to this meaning: abjured (to solemnly renounce) and abrogated (to annul, repeal or do away with). However, given the context here, the former is the better word as it is more typically used to describe the rejection of a belief, cause or claim.

And finally, we come to the second sentence, which should now be a breeze:


By _______________ to himself the right to publicly share the company’s financial information without his superior’s approval, the director was not only ________________ his professional responsibilities but effectively severing all personal relations he had with his superiors.


Clearly, abrogating would fit very well into the second blank, leaving us with arrogate for the first. This word, which is probably the most alien of the lot, means “to seize or claim something without justification”. And yes, the word arrogate comes from the same Latin root as arrogant: arrogare means to “claim for oneself”, which explains why arrogant means “to give oneself undue importance”.

As a revision, why not go back to the start of the post and try filling in the blanks yourself? Do you remember the definitions of all 7 words now?

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to take a look at more commonly confused words here or tricky word pairs here.