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Vocabulary in Context


To get at the meaning of an unknown word, use the context (or surroundings) of the word. There are 4 types of context clues: examples, synonyms, antonyms, and general sense of the passage (scroll to the bottom of page to see answers.).

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1. To cheer up the hallway, Rachel embellished her children’s bedroom doors. She painted colorful circus pictures on her son’s door and pasted seashells on her daughter’s. Embellished means

a. replaced c. decorated

b. erased d. recognized

2. People in sedentary occupations, such as driving a taxi or writing books, need to make a special effort to exercise. Sedentary means

a. low-stress c. involving much sitting

b. very well-paid d. artistic

3. Our neighbor has an abrasive personality. He can’t seem to get along with people without frequent outbursts and quarrels. Abrasive means

a. quiet and sweet c. analytical

b. cool d. harsh and rough


  1. Some actors are just asadroit in business as they are skilled in performing.
  2. Marie is a meticulous worker, but it’s no surprise—her mother is also extremely careful and precise.
  3. The mayor and the governor feel the same about each other—he deplores her as much as she disapproves of him.

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  1. Jo left her term paper till the last minute and was able to do only cursory research. In contrast, Ian started his paper in plenty of time; his painstaking, thorough research earned him an A. Cursory means

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a. hasty c. careful

b. rude d. indirect

2. Nina makes a big fuss about every little thing her children do, whether it’s harmful or innocuous. Innocuous means

a. loud c. dangerous

b. stubborn d. harmless

3. Brianna is not self-praising, like her brother; in fact, she’s self-disparaging.

a. encouraging c. knowing

b. to put oneself down d. appealing

4. The General Sense of the Passage:

  1. My old dented car looks incongruous among my neighbors’ fancy new cinemaboxhd.orgngruous means

a. useful c. better

b. appropriate d. out of place

2. It isn’t feasible for me to attend the 12:30 meeting because I’ve got another meeting that begins at noon.

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a. correct c. noticeable

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b. possible d. difficult

3. It is usually obvious when someone has an egocentric personality. Ms. A, for instance, can talk of nothing but herself, and Mr. B has no interest in anything that doesn’t affect him directly. Egocentric means

a. careless c. caring

b. violent d. self-centered


No matter what course you take, you will most likely have to learn new terms or vocabulary. For example, if you are in a nursing course, you will need to learn medical words or terminology. If you are in a political science class, you will learn political terms. Fortunately, textbook authors usually introduce terms by boldfacing the term, following it with the definition, and offering one or two examples. The following would be seen in a psychology text.

Claustrophobia is a fear of being in confined or enclosed places, such as elevators, classrooms, closets, or small planes.

When studying terms, you should mark up your book as follows: highlight the term, underline the definition, and circle or box at least one example. Then when you return to the chapter to study before an exam, the important points will be marked.


Examples: 1) c decorated 2) c involving much sitting 3) d harsh and rough

Synonyms: highlighted above

Antonyms: 1) a hasty 2) d harmless 3) b to put oneself down

General sense of the passage: 1) d out of place 2) possible

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