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GRE Vocab Wednesday: “Mmmm” Words
(full story below)
By Chris Lele

There are myriad ‘M’ words on the GRE. From maudlin to mellifluous, multifaceted to myrmidon (the last of these words I define below). Sadly, I’m limited here, but for ‘M’ words on a past Vocabulary Wednesday, google “Dial ‘M’ for Vocabulary”.

Mountebank

The mountebank took advantage of the public’s penchant to believe that anything in pill form must confer health; he started a website where he passed off mere vitamins as a panacea for chronic ailments.

This word comes from the Italian Renaissance, when itinerants would come to town—or village—hawking phony medicines. They would stand on, or mount, a banco, an old school bench, the crowd encouraging them to mount en banco (get up on the bench!) Had the crowd been aware of the deceit and fraud pulled by these mountebanks, they would probably have pulled the bench from underneath a mountebank’s feet.

Martyr

As strongly as Larry felt about human rights, he was not about to make himself a martyr at the hands of the totalitarian government—he promptly retracted his incriminating article.

This is a word that is quite common (“to die a martyr”, “don’t die a martyr”), yet one that people struggle to define exactly. A martyr is one who dies for a cause, typically religious or political. The word has taken on a broader—and humorous—connotation, describing anybody who exaggerates physical discomfort or stress in order to get sympathy or attention.

Martinet

Though as a child Kara dreaded her piano teacher, who was such a martinet that he demanded she practice scales four hours a day, she was thankful that she was able to play with great facility as an adult.

Martinet comes down to us via a 17th century French drillmaster, known for being a rigid disciplinarian. Today, anyone who is extremely strict can be described as a martinet. But don’t worry: we’re not martinets here at Magoosh. So if you don’t learn for your vocab today, we won’t force you to do push-ups.

Myrmidon

At first none of the other dogs minded Chester, the tiny Pomeranian, but after a month he had recruited a German shepherd and a Doberman pinscher, his myrmidons who carried out his every whim with ruthless canine efficiency.

All of these words seem to have a historical tie, and myrmidon is no exception. During the Trojan War, Achilles had these followers who would execute his every order—no questions asked. Today, the definition of this word means any henchman or follower who unquestioningly carries out the order of their superior. Myrmidons are the big scary guys in the action movie who say nothing but when the crime boss needs some limbs broken, they spring to action.
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