Please help me to understand the answers in this test question. I made a mistake while answering it. Though it looks easy to me, I didn't get/understand the answer.

Altruism is thought by some to be a purely human trait, developed during our evolution as a tribal species. However, studies of other animals (i) _________ this notion. Chimps will adopt orphaned infants, and many species of birds will warn others, at the risk of exposing themselves, when a predator approaches the flock. These displays of animal altruism (ii) __________ that animals other than humans also evolved to exhibit this trait.

Blank (i) options:


Blank (ii) options


My answers were confirm and assuage, because I thought studies support the claim according to the passage. The actual answers are belie and intimate. Though I understand that intimate is the better word choice but didn't get why belie is the answer.

  • The evidence shows that the belief mentioned in the first sentence is wrong. So you need something like contradict, the only word that has a similar meaning is belie. Confirm would be a perfectly fine choice if the evidence and the belief agreed, but here it means the exact opposite of what you want to express. Sep 28, 2015 at 17:32
  • A side question to native speakers: Do the given correct answers sound natural to you? While it's clear to me which answers were intended, they sound slightly off to me. Sep 28, 2015 at 17:56
  • 1
    It's a GRE study question. Its purpose is to use unusual, obscure words in context, not to demonstrate common, natural sounding vocabulary.
    – Karen
    Sep 28, 2015 at 18:11
  • @Karen I am familiar with those words, but apparently only with some of their other meanings/connotations. Sep 28, 2015 at 18:12
  • Hey karen, thanks. Yes its gre question. Though gre words are to make verbal more difficult, but I've seen use of gre words in some regular communications and so often in newspapers. So, I was wondering if these are also useful in regular english too. Sep 28, 2015 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


Concerning the first blank

The first sentence says that only humans are altruistic. That implies that no animals are capable of altruism.

The second sentence gives evidence that some animals practice altruism and thus contradicts the first sentence. Even without understanding the sentence itself, the word however hints at a contradiction.

Confirm would be a perfectly fine choice if both sentence agree. Likewise promote indicates agreement. So by elimination only belie remains.

One of its meanings, according to Merriam Webster, is:

a : to show (something) to be false or wrong
b : to run counter to : contradict

which fits.

Concerning the second blank

rescind means something like "take back" and clearly does not fit.

assuage is used for easing pain or needs and doesn't fit either.

Merriam-webster gives the following definition for intimate:

  1. to communicate delicately and indirectly : hint

which fits since the evidence hints at the conclusion given in that sentence.

  • Yes, however is the trigger here. :) Sep 28, 2015 at 18:18
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    @nadia The contradiction would be clear even without the word however, if you know what altruism means and thus notice that that the examples show altruistic behaviour in animals. Sep 28, 2015 at 18:21
  • Yes. Now i got it. Because of not knowing most of the synonyms of a word, gaps like this look so much foreign to me. Sep 28, 2015 at 19:42

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