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Law & Order - Learn GRE Words

GRE Word List #19: Law & (w)Order

Hello folks, welcome to the 19th GRE Word List Blog. This series of blogs aims to provide GRE Vocabulary practice in the form of a comprehensive GRE Word List to bolster your GRE Preparation.

If you haven’t read our previous blogs, check them out here – GRE Word List Blogs.

As we’re getting ever closer to 20 Blogs, we want to hear from you, our readers on what themes and what kind of GRE words you’d like to see in future blogs.

Do leave your suggestions in the comments!

The theme of this GRE Word List blog is something I’ve been wanting to write about, for a while now. If you’re like me, you enjoy legal dramas and/or novels. There exist several phrases and words that originated for use in court but have transcended that boundary, and find usage in common parlance. This blog will contain a few of those, and just like Marvel (don’t sue me), will leave room for possible sequels/spin-offs.

This week’s words are bona fide, prejudice, slap on the wrist, warrant, and the jury’s still out.

i. bona fide

Part of Speech – adjective
1. genuine; real.
2. without intention to deceive.

Word Origins – Latin, literally ‘with good faith’
Synonyms – authentic, genuine, legitimate.
Usage – His interest to invest in our company is bona fide.


The pound sterling is the official currency of the UK. Its name has a couple of different etymologies. According to the OED, sterling is a corruption of the Old English word ‘steorra,’ meaning star, in Norman. The diminutive ‘ling’ was added to it, signifying ‘little star.’

Another story attributes its name to its place of origin. There are claims that the original sterlings were manufactured in the Baltic region by the Hanseatic League. The German word for the Baltic is Ostsee or ‘East Sea.’ So, the people from there were called the Easterlings, which over time, was shortened to Sterlings.

Sterling silver is silver that’s 92.5% silver, and 7.5% other metals, generally copper. Because of its high purity, sterling became a byword for anything of high quality or integrity.

The symbol for a Great British Pound ( £ ) comes from the Roman ‘Libra,’ a unit of weight.

Fun Fact: Quid is a slang term used for the pound. This may be because of Italian immigrants referring to coins as ‘scudo,’ later corrupted to quid. Another possible reason for the same, is the Latin phrase ‘quid pro quo,’ which means an equal exchange – here, exchange of money for goods/services.

ii. prejudice

Part of Speech – noun/adjective
1. preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
2. harm or injury that results or may result from some action or judgement.

Word Origins – from Old French, from Latin praejudicium, from prae ‘in advance’ + judicium ‘judgement’
Synonyms – bias, partisanship, bigotry, impairment.
Usage – Try out our GRE Preparation course without prejudice, and judge for yourself.

The Lost Letter

Stanley Milgram was a famous American social psychologist who graduated from Harvard. While he was working as a professor at Yale, he devised his famous Milgram Obedience Experiment. Inspired by the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the major organizers of the despicable Final Solution, Milgram wanted to understand the obedience of the Nazis in perpetrating the Holocaust. Were the Nazis participating of their own volition, or were they taken in by their obedience to the authority of a collective few?

One of his other experiments is the subject of this section of the blog – The Lost Letter Experiment. In an attempt to understand people’s prejudices, and how helpful people would be to strangers, Milgram arranged for stamped and sealed letters to be placed in public spaces, addressed to various people & entities. The destinations of the letters ranged from benevolent institutions like hospitals, charities, etc., to stigmatized organizations like ‘Friends of the Nazi Party.’

Milgram wanted to see how many people would mail which letters, driven by their prejudicial ideologies, ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ He found that most letters addressed to the favourable organizations were mailed, whereas most of the ones addressed to the latter, were not. For more on Milgram’s other undertakings in social psychology, check out his wiki page.

iii. slap on the wrist

Part of Speech – phrase
Definition – a mild reprimand or punishment.
Word Origins – 18th century England, when slap began to be used in a figurative sense.
Synonyms – rebuke, reprimand, telling-off.
Usage – Since it was his first offence, he got away with just a slap on the wrist.

Suspended Sentence

When a criminal is let off with a milder sentence/punishment than the crime usually deserves, the expression, ‘He got away with a slap on the wrist’ is used. This could be a legitimate exercising of discretion, for example, if the crime so committed was the defendant’s first offense. Or, it could be a dishonest endeavour, one born of some sort of bribery or extortion. e.g. Rich moguls or politicians getting away with just fines for serious crimes.

Sentencing disparity is a real issue that’s common in most justice systems across the world. The same crime, committed by two different individuals could carry two different punishments. It, of course, depends on the judge who is serving the sentence, but it more so depends on the criminals themselves.

iv. warrant

Part of Speech – verb/noun

1. justify or necessitate (a course of action).
2. a document authorizing the police or another body to make an arrest, and search premises, etc.

Word Origins – Middle English (in the senses ‘protector’ and ‘safeguard’, also, as a verb, ‘keep safe from danger’): from variants of Old French guarant (noun), guarantir (verb)
Synonyms – justification, permit, sanction.
Usage – A subpar GRE score warrants dedicated and thorough preparation for improvement.

Pop goes the weasel

In the UK, warrants and senior public appointments are signed off on, quite literally, by the reigning monarch. In late 1558, Mary I aka ‘Bloody Mary’ had passed away. A group of Protestant ‘heretics’ were scheduled to be hung for their ‘crimes against Christianity.’ When the news of Mary I’s death came through, all the Protestants were set free.

This is because of an age old rule – Upon the death of the reigning monarch, all warrants that have not been executed are considered invalid. The succeeding monarch, Elizabeth I, who was a Protestant herself, declined to litigate warrants again for the ‘heretics,’ and they went free.

This practice has somehow survived the ages and is still in practice today. God save the Queen!

v. the jury’s still out

Part of Speech – phrase

1. a decision has not yet been reached on a controversial subject.
2. the jury is still deliberating and is yet to reach a verdict.

Word Origins – The literal usage has existed since at least the mid-1800s. From the mid-1900s, people began to use this expression figuratively.
Synonyms – not yet ascertained, doubtful, dubious.
Usage – Is the dress black and blue, or gold and white? The jury’s still out.

So, what’s the verdict?

There have been several great legal dramas made over the years, some of which are ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘A Few Good Men,’ etc. However, when we look at legal dramas where the jury is the centre of attention, no other movie has as much cultural significance as 12 Angry Men does. Hope you aGREe.

Made in the 1950s, this film stands the test of time and is a riveting watch for the ages. The film starts with a troubled teen being accused of killing his father. The 12 selected jurors are all men, most of whom just want to get it over with.

However, one juror doesn’t believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the boy has killed his father. How he puts his perspective across to others, and whether the other jurors will consider the facts of the case forms the rest of the story.

It isn’t available on any streaming platforms, so…

That’s all for this GRE Word List Blog, folks! Hope your GRE Vocabulary is a little fuller than it was before.

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