Word Clearing (old-1)


Please see Course on Subject Clearing

Reference Dictionaries:
Webster’s 1913 edition


Words are compressed thoughts. It may not be possible to express the complete meaning of a word through a dictionary, encyclopedia, or some other text because it is continually evolving. But dictionaries do provide origins, different usages, synonymns and other clues to understand a word in a given context.

During the process of learning when there is confusion, the first thing to do is to look up the meaning of the word(s) related to that area of confusion. This is necessary even when one has looked up those words before. One must newly examine the meaning of the words in the present context.

The following procedure is designed to bring about rapid understanding of words in the appropriate context.

  1. Start with looking up the broad concept underlying the word.

    In a dictionary you may find the broad concept listed under ‘history’, ‘origin’, or ‘derivation’ of the word. This may appear either before, or after the definitions. Sometimes you may have to go to a reference, such as, “Dictionary of Word Origins” by John Ayto to get the concept.

    Look for broad concept only. Sometimes you may have to piece together the concept from the derivations given. Ignore most other grammatical details. Once you have grasped the broad concept go to the next step.

    For example, when you look up ARITHMETIC, you may find the underlying concept expressed as “skill with numbers.” As an exercise, check out the concept for the word GEOMETRY.

  2. Locate the definition of the word that fits the context.

    Scan through the definitions provided for that word, and locate the one that seems to be most appropriate. Start with this definition even though you may find another definition more appropriate after some contemplation.

  3. Study the definition until you can visualize it fully.

    Read the definition carefully. Relate it to your experience and visualize it in your mind.

    If the word refers to something concrete then find the actual thing to look at, or a reasonable replica, model or a picture. For example, if the word is ARCHIPELAGO, you may easily find some pictures by searching images on the Internet.

    If the word refers to some feelings or conditions then find some examples or experiences that you can relate to. For example, if the word is EXUBERANT then look at the times when you felt exuberant, or perceived somebody else being exuberant.

    If the word refers to some abstract idea, you can still find examples that illustrate that concept. For example, the word INEFFABLE is very abstract; but you can find enough examples to define it for yourself. Look up the examples that are provided, and then follow them with examples of your own. You may even contemplate on how something is ineffable or not until it starts to make sense. Use your experience to visualize.

    Any time you have difficulty on understanding the meaning take further action per step (6).

  4. Study the remaining definitions for the word.

    Read the other definitions carefully one by one. Make sure you understand them enough to see if they fit within the context. If they do not, then move to the next definition. If a definition fits within the context then study it per step (3) above.

    Once you have gone over rest of the definitions then choose the definition for the word that is most appropriate within the present context.

  5. Use the word with chosen definition in several sentences.

    Once you have the appropriate definition, use the word in several sentences. Do so until you feel comfortable in expressing your ideas through this word with the correct use of grammar.

  6. If there are words in a definition that you do not understand, then look them up.

    This difficulty may arise in steps (3) and (4) above. Examine the definition for words in the definition that may not be correctly or fully understood. Then apply this word clearing procedure to each of those word.

    It is possible to get into long word chains when looking up words in definitions. Keep in mind that the definitions of words only provide approximations. What is important is getting a clear visualization of the underlying concept of the word in the appropriate context. A mindful use of visualization may help you keep the word chains short.

    Keep a record of such words. Cross out a word as soon as its meaning is understood. Sometimes a word may come up again that you had looked up earlier. But this time it may be used differently. It is okay to look up the same word as many times as necessary. Each time you look up a word you may pick up a new dimension of its meaning.


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  • MarkNR  On December 14, 2013 at 8:59 PM



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