Somtimes it is Greek: Umbrage

The character Professor Dolores Umbridge can be better understood if you understand the wordplay behind her name.

Each week, “It’s not GREek!” will discuss a new word likely to appear on the GRE.  We aim not only to give you a new word to memorize, but also to provide you with some background and etymological history to help you remember it.  At the end of the post, we will also give you a sentence with a few other new words to add to your flash cards.  By following this weekly series, you should be more prepared than ever to tackle the sentence completion, sentence equivalencies, and reading comprehension questions on test day.

This Week’s Word: Umbrage

The word umbrage is derived from the Latin umbra, which means shadow. Today, umbrage is a feeling of resentment or pique. Umbrage is often the result of a misunderstood or misinterpreted interaction, a real or imagined slight.

As its Latin root might suggest, umbrage can also refer to a shadow or shady foliage; umbrage can also mean a vague or indistinct suggestion, and a reason for doubt. Though it might be useful to be aware of these more traditional definitions, umbrage is rarely used in these particular contexts today.

Umbrage is often used idiomatically, as in “to take umbrage with something,” and this particular verbiage has led to a veritable lineage of war-time anecdotes. In 1990, “American Literary Anecdotes” printed the most recent version, though one source indicates the joke goes as far back as 1782:

There is a story about the editor of a small newspaper who quickly read a wire service story during World War II stating that the Russians had taken umbrage at something, as they often did. Not knowing what the phrase meant, he headlined the story: “Russians Capture Umbrage.”

Sample Sentence:

Uma took umbrage with Umar’s unapologetic appraisal of Uma’s attire.

Miss last week’s “Sometimes it is Greek?” Check it out here! Want more GRE vocabulary? Click here for the free Test Masters GRE vocabulary list with over 2,000 words!

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