Vocabulary from Context

Understanding Vocabulary

Readers often figure out the meanings of words without resorting to dictionaries. They figure out the meanings using clues within the book.

1. Look at the grammar.

  •  If the word is a verb, what is another verb that would make sense in the sentence?
  • If the word is a proper noun, is it the name of a person or place?
  • If the word is a common noun, can you think of another word that would make sense in the sentence?

2. Look around for a definition.

  • Look for a synonym in a sentence near by.
  • Look for examples that start with ‘such as’ or ‘like’ or ‘including’.
  • Look for an antonym in a phrase that starts with ‘but’ or ‘although’.If you are reading a novel, look for an appositive after the word, a definition placed between commas or dashes.
  • Look for an explanation in the preceding or following sentences that can help you infer the meaning of the unknown word.
  • If you are reading a nonfiction book, look for a phrase that starts with ‘is’ or ‘refers to’ or ‘that means’.
  • If you are reading a textbook, look for a definition in the margin or a glossary at the end.

3. Analyze the word.

  • Is there a root word you understand?

4. Use your background knowledge to infer the meaning.

  • What would make sense?    • How would I feel in that situation?

 Click HERE to go to a website with practice questions.
Click HERE to go to slide show.
Click HERE to go to a more detailed slide show.

Hautzig, Esther. The Endless Steppe. New York: HarperTrophy, 1968.

Word

Page

Strategy

Definition

abstraction

30

I used the appositive to figure out what it meant.

Absence of mind, not really a big deal.

sardonic

31

I found an explanation in a preceding sentence.

You don’t like the person you’re saying something to. Showing disrespect.

gallows

44

It was an adjective describing humor. I found an explanation in the preceding sentence.

Unpleasant, serious, mean.

oppressed

45

The verb before oppressed was feel, so I knew it was a feeling.  I could tell from the mood in the preceding sentences I could tell what the definition was.

Feeling of being treated harshly.

grandiose

62

The following sentence gave the explanation

Sounding impressive but not really very good

kerosene

78

The following noun was lamp. So I knew it was a type of lamp. I knew it was a special type because it said it was a luxury earlier in the sentence.

Special type of lamp.

yahrzeit

111

The following noun was candle. Then it talked about this candle being used during a time of mourning.

A type of candle used during a time of mourning.

curtly

126

The following sentence gave the explanation.

Strictly, rudely or abruptly.

fufaika

127

I used the appositive before the word.

Green, quilted jacket.

surreptitiously

158

The following sentence gave the explanation

Doing something in a stealth mode.

sheepishly

165

There is a root word I understand but I don’t think sheep has anything to do with it. So I used the quotations before the word to find the explanation.

Foolish or wrong.

fastidiously

170

I got the definition from the preceding and following sentences after the appositive.

Hard to please.

(by Bradley in grade eight)

 

 

 

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