GRE Verbal

6 Confusing GRE Words – Homonyms

While learning new words, you might have come across sets of words that seemed too similar to each other and those which you ultimately confuse the usage of. The technical term for this is homonyms.

Here are some confusing words that we’ve noticed people mixing up!

1. Principle vs Principal

My principal, the head of the school I studied in, once told me “remember, a principal is your PAL” (yeah right!). Although grossly untrue- that statement served as a great mnemonic.

A principal is the head or the most important part of something.
Whereas, a principle is a belief or rule that one lives by or is expected to live by.

2. Appraise vs Apprise

The word appraise means to be evaluated; for instance, appraisals at work. Remember that one always wishes to be praised after one is appraised! (lame mnemonic, you’re thinking? But it works!).

Apprise on the other hand means to inform someone of something. Eg: My manager apprised me of the appraisals that were scheduled to happen in a month.

3. Collide vs Collude

I’ve actually heard a person say “My car colluded with another car yesterday”.
Hopefully what he meant to say was that his car collided with another car!Collide means to crash into. Collude means to conspire!

Perhaps the only time cars conspired was in the movie Cars 2. Remember all those old rickety cars that conspired to take over the world? Those cars were colluding!

4. Uninterested vs Disinterested

Often assumed (wrongly) to be interchangeable, many people misuse the word “disinterested”.
While “uninterested”, which means that one lacks interest in something, generally has a negative connotation, “disinterested” has a positive connotation. Disinterested means to not be biased – to be impartial!

5. Compliment vs Complement

Quick tip: complement looks like complete, and that’s what it means!
When something adds on to and completes something else it complements it.
Eg: A very smooth operating system complements the carefully selected hardware on the new iPhone 5s!

The word “compliment” of course means to praise someone or something.

6. Torturous vs Tortuous

Remember that the word Torture is similar to the word Torturous.

Eg: Visits to the dentist always end up being torturous: I’m always in more pain after meeting him than before!

Tortuous, on the other hand, has its roots from the word “torque” which sort of means to twist. Tortuous means to have a lot of twists and turns – to not be straightforward.
A movie could be hard to follow because its plot is very tortuous.

These are just some of the words that people find confusing. What words confuse you? Why? Do you have a way of avoiding this confusion? Tell us all about it by emailing us at

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