Determine the Meaning of Words and Phrases
Using the Context of a Passage to Determine the Meaning of Words With Multiple Meanings, Unfamiliar and Uncommon Words and Phrases, and Figurative Expressions
You can use the same context clues discussed on the previous page to discover the meaning of uncommon and unfamiliar words, but you may have to be even more of a detective if you do not recognize the word at all. Often, you will find examples before or after the word to give you hints.
“Planting a radio bomb on a crowded airplane, spraying a restaurant with bullets and holding hostages for years are typical of the heinous acts of terrorism today’s world fears.”
Even if you have never seen the word heinous, you could look at the examples and recognize the definition: “grossly wicked or vile.”
Still another contextual clue is the use of signal words indicating contrast. Look for words like but, however, despite, although, yet, instead, while, even though, and nevertheless to tell you that the word you want to define is the opposite of another word in the sentence or paragraph.
“David is normally loquacious, but yesterday he was almost silent.”
In the sentence the word but tells you that loquacious means the opposite of silent.