Word Meanings

Reference: Course on Subject Clearing

Words and symbols form our basic understanding. When there is confusion in the study materials, the first thing to do is to isolate the area of confusion. Then locate the paragraph which is confusing. Then locate the sentence in that paragraph which doesn’t make sense. Then find the first word in that sentence that seem to generate confusion, and clear up its meaning. Here you have to be careful because the confusion may arise from a simple word, such as, “on”, “of”, or “in” because they can be used in different meanings.

In short, clear up the meaning of words in the area of confusion. It may be just one word or many. But the moment you find a misunderstood word, the confusion lessens and your mood brightens up. Keep repeating the above procedure. You will be surprised how fast the confusion clears up.


New and Familiar Words

Many a time we run into new words, but we guess their meaning from the context and carry on. Later when we start to have trouble, we may not connect it to this new word we didn’t look up.

Many words appear familiar to us because we have come across them many times. But we always guessed their meanings and never looked them up. So, it is always safe to look up the meaning of a word when there is the slightest doubt. This will help you avoid a lot of head ache later.


Broad Concept

Before you look up the definitions, make sure you know broad concept of the word. You may find the broad concept listed under ‘history’, ‘origin’, or ‘etymology’ of the word in a dictionary. The following broad concepts for some words are taken from “Dictionary of Word Origins” by John Ayto.

The word STUDY comes from a Latin word meaning “eagerness, intense application”.

The word MATHEMATICS comes from a Greek word meaning “something learned”.

The word ARITHMETIC comes from Greek, ARITHMOS number + TECHNE skill, which means “number skill”.


Many Definitions

A word, especially a simple one, usually has more than one definition. You may check all the definitions in a good dictionary, and find the one that makes most sense in the given context. If there are more than one definition that seem to fit, then you must understand the difference between them and choose the right definition.

To choose the right definition, visualize each definition. You may sketch the concept as a diagram on paper, or demonstrate it dynamically with bits and pieces of things. You may even use clay to model the concept. In case of animals, trees, flowers, etc., you may consult images on Internet search engines. For abstract concepts, make real examples from your experience to understand the differences, It is always helpful to use the word in a few sentences to get further clarity on a definition. 


Words in Definitions

If a word in the definition itself is not quite clear, then look it up in a dictionary as described above. This may sometime get you in a chain of words. List the words as you look them up, and cross them out as they are cleared up. It is okay to look up the same word many times because each time you look it up you may pick up a new dimension to its meaning.


The Right Definition

The right definition is the one that lessens the confusion. As there may be more than one word that needs clearing up, keep repeating this procedure until the confusion in the study materials is gone.

When all the words in the area of confusion are understood, then continue with the next step of subject clearing.


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