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vocabulary
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The Top 100 Study Words for

Standardized Tests like the SAT® & ACT®

Ordered by Importance of Study
Based on the SAT® as redesigned for tests taken after January of 2016*
(click/touch triangles for details)
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reflect
as in:
reflect American Values
Which choice best reflects the overall sequence of events in the passage?
reflects = expresses
DefinitionGenerally this sense of reflect means:
to show something — such as to demonstrate, express, or represent
The exact meaning of this sense of reflect depends upon its context. For example:
  • "She says the immorality in the movie reflects American values." — expresses or represents
  • "It reflects the selfishness she had seen growing for years." — demonstrates
  • "She did not reflect the panic that surrounded her." — demonstrate or show indication of
Word Statistics
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
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indicate
These maps are drawn with north to the top unless otherwise indicated.
indicated = pointed out (shown)
DefinitionGenerally indicate means:
to show (point out, demonstrate, express, or suggest)
Word Statistics
Library38 uses in 10 avg bks
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illustrate
as in:
as illustrated by this example
Pictures of flooding help to illustrate the problem of global warming.
illustrate = make clear
DefinitionGenerally this sense of illustrate means:
to help make clear — typically by example
Word Statistics
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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imply
She wouldn't make a direct statement, but she implied that she supported our position.
implied = hinted or suggested
DefinitionGenerally imply means:
to suggest or say indirectly — possibly as a logical consequence
Word Statistics
Library13 uses in 10 avg bks
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accompany
The nurse accompanied the old woman everywhere.
accompanied = traveled along with
DefinitionGenerally accompany means:
to travel along with; or to be present with at the same time and/or location

or:

to perform with
Word Statistics
Library30 uses in 10 avg bks
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relevant
It is easier to learn things that seem relevant to your life.
relevant = related in a meaningful way to the issue in question
DefinitionGenerally relevant means:
relating in a meaningful way to the issue in question
Word Statistics
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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revise
How can you revise that paragraph to improve the expression of ideas?
revise = improve (change)
DefinitionGenerally revise means:
to change (and hopefully improve) — most frequently to improve a written document, but it can be any intentional change such as a change in an estimated amount, a plan, or a series of procedures
Word Statistics
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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adapted
2 meanings
as in:
adapted to the new rules
Ideas contained in passages for this test, some of which are excerpted or adapted from published material, do not necessarily represent the opinions of the College Board.
adapted = changed (to fit this situation)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of adapted means:
changed to fit a different situation; or made suitable
Word Statistics
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
especially well adapted for
Penguins are especially well adapted for cold weather.
well adapted = well suited
DefinitionGenerally this sense of adapted means:
to be especially well suited or appropriate for something
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Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
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tradition
My family's Thanksgiving tradition is to gather together and eat turkey.
tradition = a long-established practice
DefinitionGenerally tradition means:
a long-established or previously long-established practice or belief

and/or:

one or more practices, beliefs, or stories passed down through generations within a specific culture or group
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Library32 uses in 10 avg bks
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contrast
3 meanings
as in:
contrast their writing styles
Contrast winter in Panama with winter in Alaska.
contrast = point to differences between; or compare to show differences
Word Statistics
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
there is a contrast
The contrast in their leadership styles is striking. Olivia motivated people with fear. Isabella motivated them with praise.
contrast = notable difference
DefinitionGenerally this sense of contrast means:
a difference — especially a notable difference; or the side-x-side arrangement of things that draws attention to an unmissable difference
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Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
it is a contrast
College is quite a contrast to high school.
contrast = something notably different
DefinitionGenerally this sense of contrast means:
something noticeably different (compared to something else or to other things)
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Library1 uses in 10 avg bks
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establish
2 meanings
as in:
establish a positive tone
Which word choice best maintains the tone established in the first paragraph?
established = created
DefinitionGenerally this sense of establish means:
create, start, or set in [a] place
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Library21 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
establish that there is a need
The passage is primarily about establishing the relationship between the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global temperature.
establishing = showing or demonstrating
DefinitionGenerally this sense of establish means:
show or determine (cause to be recognized or figure out)
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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consequence
as in:
a direct consequence of
Your decision will have three major consequences.
consequences = results
DefinitionGenerally this sense of consequence means:
a result of something (often an undesired side effect)
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Library25 uses in 10 avg bks
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hypothesis
as in:
a study to test her hypothesis
The study will test the hypothesis that a good marriage is more important than a higher income when measuring happiness.
hypothesis = a seemingly reasonable, but unproven, idea or explanation
DefinitionGenerally this sense of hypothesis means:
seemingly reasonable, but unproven idea or explanation based upon known facts
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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passage
Each passage below is followed by a number of questions.
passage = a short part of a longer written work
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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direct
3 meanings
as in:
was direct in my instructions
I left them with direct instructions.
direct = straightforward
DefinitionGenerally this sense of direct means:
straightforward (uncomplicated or simple — perhaps also indicating openness and honesty)
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Library12 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
directed her question to
The sprinkler head needs to be fixed so it directs water away from the house.
directs = aims
DefinitionGenerally this sense of direct means:
to indicate direction; or to cause movement or focus in a direction or towards an object
The exact meaning of this sense of direct is subject to its context. For example:
  • "intentionally directed fire at unarmed civilians" — aimed a gun
  • "directed the question to her" — aimed a question
  • "directed her north" — pointed in a particular direction
  • "directed attention to the 3rd paragraph" — focused attention on a particular object
  • "The sound of her voice directed him to the kitchen." — guided or gave directions to someone to help them move to a particular place
  • "She directed him to the airport." — gave directions to send someone to a particular place
  • "She directed the boat north." — steered it
  • "directed the letter to" — send a letter to a particular person by putting a name and address on it
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Library31 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
directed the jury to...
On the SAT test, some questions direct you to look at an underlined or numbered portion of a passage.
direct = instruct
DefinitionGenerally this sense of direct means:
give instructions or commands
Word Statistics
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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demonstrate
2 meanings
as in:
It demonstrates my point.
The salesperson demonstrated features of both phones so I could compare them.
demonstrated = showed
DefinitionGenerally this sense of demonstrate means:
to show
The exact meaning of this sense of demonstrate can depend upon its context. For example:
  • "I will demonstrate how to throw a Frisbee." — show how to do something
  • "I will demonstrate how much quicker the new computer is than the old one." — show how something works
  • "Her questioned demonstrated that she was listening and thinking deeply about what was said." — showed to be true or proved
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as in:
demonstrate to protest
The students demonstrated against hate speech.
demonstrated = joined with others in a public protest
DefinitionGenerally this sense of demonstrate means:
a public display supporting a cause — usually joining with others in a political protest
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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evaluate
I'm evaluating colleges and deciding which I want to apply to.
evaluating = thinking carefully and making a judgment about
DefinitionGenerally evaluate means:
to think carefully and make a judgment about something
Word Statistics
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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interpret
as in:
her interpretation of the data
I don't know how to interpret her smile.
interpret = understand (In this case: Why did she smile? What does it mean?)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of interpret means:
to understand or explain something in a particular way — often the meaning or significance of something
Word Statistics
Library12 uses in 10 avg bks
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contradict
Does the sentence contradict the main claim of the essay?
contradict = disagree with
DefinitionGenerally contradict means:
disagree
in various senses, including:
  • to say something is not true — as in "She contradicted his testimony."
  • to say something else is true when both can't be true — as in "I don't believe her. She contradicted herself as she told us what happened."
  • to be in conflict with — as in "Her assertions contradict accepted scientific principles."
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acknowledge
She acknowledged that she might have forgotten.
acknowledged = admitted
DefinitionGenerally acknowledge means:
express recognition of someone or something; or admit something
Word Statistics
Library24 uses in 10 avg bks
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correspond
as in:
corresponding time period
Eskimos have many words that correspond to the English word snow. For example, there are different words for "snow on the ground", "fresh snow on the ground", "soft snow on the ground", "a crust of snow on the ground" and so forth.
correspond = are equivalent
DefinitionGenerally this sense of correspond means:
connect or fit together by being equivalent, proportionate, or matched

(Two things are equivalent if they have the same or very similar value, purpose, or result.)
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convention
as in:
conventional behavior
It was once conventional wisdom that the earth was flat.
conventional = normal or typical
DefinitionGenerally this sense of convention means:
something regarded as normal or typical
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Library10 uses in 10 avg bks
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nevertheless
The class was hard. Nevertheless, it was my favorite.
nevertheless = in spite of that (used to connect contrasting ideas)
DefinitionGenerally nevertheless means:
in spite of that (Used to connect contrasting ideas. Other synonyms could include words and phrases such as nonetheless, all the same, still,  and however.)
Word Statistics
Library15 uses in 10 avg bks
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context
She said she was quoted out of context and that anyone who read her full speech would know it.
context = in a misleading manner (because the quote left out additional words that changed the meaning of what was quoted)
DefinitionGenerally context means:
the setting or situation in which something occurs
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infer
Which of the following facts can you infer from the first paragraph?
infer = figure out or guess by reasoning
DefinitionGenerally infer means:
to figure out or guess by reasoning
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convey
as in:
convey her thoughts
Please convey my gratitude for her hospitality.
convey = communicate or express
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alternative
as in:
an alternative plan
Let's think of at least three alternatives before we decide what to do.
alternatives = possibilities
DefinitionGenerally this sense of alternative means:
something available as another possibility
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narrator
The narrator in the play, Our Town talks to characters in the play as well as to the audience.
narrator = an actor in a play, movie, or other performance who helps to tell the story by talking directly to the audience (breaking the imaginary barrier between the performers and the audience)
DefinitionGenerally narrator means:
someone who tells a story—especially the main voice in a documentary, or a character who talks directly to the audience in a movie, play or other performance
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focus
2 meanings
as in:
Turn your focus to question #2.
I find that studying in the library helps me to focus.
focus = concentrate
DefinitionGenerally this sense of focus means:
verb: to concentrate, look at, or pay attention to

noun: the act of concentration, or the ability to concentrate

(to concentrate is to direct attention or effort towards a single thing)
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as in:
The focus of our study is...
Since we're running out of time, let's narrow our focus to just what needs to be done tomorrow.
focus = area where attention is concentrated
DefinitionGenerally this sense of focus means:
where attention is concentrated or directed
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attribute
as in:
I attribute it to...
She attributed this quotation to Shakespeare.
attributed = credited (pointed to a source for something)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of attribute means:
to credit (a source for something)
in two typical senses:
  • "I attribute it to her work." — to say who or what made something happen
  • "Remember to attribute any quotations in your paper." — indicate the source of a quotation or idea
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negative
2 meanings
as in:
had a negative effect
Higher interest rates negatively affected home sales.
negatively = in a bad or harmful manner
DefinitionGenerally this sense of negative means:
bad or harmful
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as in:
negative feedback from customers
The responses to my plan were negative.
negative = indicated criticism or disagreement
DefinitionGenerally this sense of negative means:
to express criticism or disagreement, or (especially when talking over a radio or in a military setting) to say "no"
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sufficient
We have sufficient supplies.
sufficient = adequate (enough — often without being more than is needed)
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perspective
2 meanings
as in:
Look at it from her perspective
A child who was abused with have a different perspective of family life than one raised in a nurturing home.
perspective = a particular way of seeing or thinking about things
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as in:
Keep it in perspective
She loses perspective and continually wants to change the plan in a manner that depends on the most recent complaint.
perspective = a sensible view of a situation that considers its different parts in a balanced way
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highlight
as in:
the paragraph highlights...
The main purpose of this passage is to highlight the degree of income inequality.
highlight = emphasize (call attention to)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of highlight means:
emphasize (call attention to something)
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vary
Your mileage may vary.
vary = be different
DefinitionGenerally vary means:
to be different, or to change
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explicit
as in:
explicit instructions
She gave us explicit instructions.
explicit = precisely and clearly expressed
DefinitionGenerally this sense of explicit means:
clear and with enough detail so there is no confusion
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genuine
I am genuinely sorry for what I did.
genuinely = sincerely
DefinitionGenerally genuine means:
real (as when a person is sincere or an object is not a replica or fake)
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yield
as in:
will yield valuable data
The discovery could yield a more effective treatment for diabetes.
yield = produce (lead to)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of yield means:
to produce (usually something wanted); or the thing or amount produced
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primarily
Did the author mention multiple companies primarily to demonstrate diversity of solutions or to show that interest in the industry is widespread?
primarily = mainly
DefinitionGenerally primarily means:
mainly (most importantly)
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irrelevant
The sentence should be deleted because it introduces information that is irrelevant to the passage.
irrelevant = not relevant
DefinitionGenerally irrelevant means:
not relevant (not related to the subject being considered, or not important enough to want to consider)
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however
as in:
However, complications may...
Most college application deadlines are in January and February. However, early admission deadlines are around November and some scholarships require even earlier deadlines.
however = despite that (a transition word use to connect contrasting ideas)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of however means:
though (or another expression that connects contrasting ideas)

(Based on idea 1 we might not expect idea 2, but this is a way of saying that even though idea 1 exists, we still have idea 2.  Synonyms include in spite of that, , nevertheless, nonetheless, on the other hand, in contrastand but.)
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advocate
2 meanings
as in:
to advocate
She advocates stricter gun control.
advocates = publicly supports
DefinitionGenerally this sense of advocate means:
to recommend or publicly support someone or something
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as in:
an advocate supporting
She is a passionate advocate for children's welfare.
advocate = a person who publicly supports and works to advance a cause
DefinitionGenerally this sense of advocate means:
a person who publicly supports and works to advance a cause

or more rarely:

someone acting in the role of a defense lawyer in England's past and in some jurisdictions today
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allude
He alluded to Susan without mentioning her name.
alluded = indirectly referenced
DefinitionGenerally allude means:
to make an indirect reference
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counterargument
When I listened to her speech I agreed with her, but then I heard his counterargument and now I'm leaning towards his position.
counterargument = persuasive reasoning offered in opposition to other reasoning
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positive
2 meanings
as in:
had a positive effect
Lower interest rates positively affected home sales.
positively = in a good or beneficial manner
DefinitionGenerally this sense of positive means:
good or beneficial
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as in:
positive feedback from my boss
Responses to my plan were positive.
positive = indicating agreement or approval
DefinitionGenerally this sense of positive means:
approval or agreement
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dominate
The defending World Champions dominated their unranked opponent.
dominated = controlled
DefinitionGenerally dominate means:
to control; or to be most influential, powerful, or conspicuous
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factor
as in:
It was the deciding factor.
During the course of the first paragraph, the narrator's focus shifts from factors making her unhappy to identification of alternatives.
factors = things (that influence an outcome)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of factor means:
something that affects a result or outcome
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phenomenon
It is a growing social phenomenon on high school campuses.
phenomenon = something that can be seen and is of special interest
DefinitionGenerally phenomenon means:
something that exists or happened — especially something of special interest — sometimes someone or something that is extraordinary
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diversity
Diversity has strengthened our Board of Directors.
diversity = the condition of variety
DefinitionGenerally diversity means:
the condition of variety — especially in reference to members of a population group who are of different races or cultures
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diverse
The college wants a diverse student body.
diverse = varied — in this case consisting of a population of different kinds of people — such as different ethnic groups and genders
DefinitionGenerally diverse means:
varied (having variety amongst things of the same kind) — especially with regard to ideas or members of a population group
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diversify
She has been typecast as the female who beats up males, but she's eager to diversify her roles.
diversify = make more varied
DefinitionGenerally diversify means:
to make more varied
Diversify is used to describe variation in some things so frequently that they can be implied by the general context without a need to state them explicitly — such as:
  • with regard to people — varying races, ethnicities, and genders
  • with regard to investments — varying types of investments
  • with regard to a company — varying sources of business
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appropriate
as in:
it is appropriate
These clothes aren't appropriate for work.
appropriate = suitable (fitting) for a particular situation
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conflict
Violent conflict has broken out again in the Middle East.
conflict = struggle
DefinitionGenerally conflict means:
a struggle or disagreement
in various senses, including:
  • a serious disagreement — as in "political conflict"
  • the tension from two opposing ideas or feelings — as in "I'm conflicted about where I should go to college."
  • a violent fight or war — as in "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict"
  • an idiom that refers to tension between responsibilities to different entities — "conflict of interest"
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sustain
3 meanings
as in:
sustained by her faith
We sustained ourselves on bread and water.
sustained = supported
DefinitionGenerally this sense of sustain means:
provide support or necessities
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as in:
sustained through the ages
For twenty years, the company has sustained its leading position in creating special effects for films.
sustained = continued through time
DefinitionGenerally this sense of sustain means:
to continue through time
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as in:
sustained wounds
Every building within a two miles of the center of the earthquake sustained damage.
sustained = suffered from
DefinitionGenerally this sense of sustain means:
to suffer (as of injury, damage, or loss)
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conformist
Most teenagers are surprisingly conformist within their subgroup.
conformist = someone who thinks and acts like others in a group
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ambivalent
Polling indicates the public is ambivalent on the subject. Their opinions change depending upon the latest headlines.
ambivalent = with mixed feelings
DefinitionGenerally ambivalent means:
having mixed feelings about something — such as when part of you wants to do something and part of you does not
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mockery
I will not permit the defendant to make a mockery of this trial.
mockery = something that is ridiculous
DefinitionGenerally mockery means:
ridicule (to make fun of)

or:

something so inadequate it is ridiculous (silly)
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distinct
Martinez and his colleagues identified 21 distinct emotions made by the human face.
distinct = different
DefinitionGenerally distinct means:
clear, easily noticed, and/or identifiable as different or separate
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elaborate
as in:
elaborate on your plan
Please elaborate on the reasons you think this is the best plan.
elaborate = explain in detail
DefinitionGenerally this sense of elaborate means:
add details or explain in detail
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dispute
2 meanings
as in:
their border dispute
The area has long been a source of dispute between India and Pakistan.
dispute = disagreement
DefinitionGenerally this sense of dispute means:
disagreement, argument, or conflict
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as in:
She disputes his claim.
She disputes her landlord's claim that the music was that loud.
disputes = challenges
DefinitionGenerally this sense of dispute means:
challenge, argue about, or fight over
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assert
2 meanings
as in:
asserted her opinion that...
The defense also asserts that the defendant has no previous record.
asserts = says (that something is true — especially something disputed)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of assert means:
to say that something is true — especially something disputed
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as in:
asserted her authority
She says women should assert themselves more.
assert = be forceful in exercising influence or rights
DefinitionGenerally this sense of assert means:
to be forceful in exercising influence or rights
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implication
as in:
the implication is that...
I object to her implication that my work was sub-standard.
implication = something implied (said indirectly)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of implication means:
Something that follows from something else.
The thing that follows could be:
  • something suggested indirectly (not said directly)
  • something that can be concluded (often a logical consequence)
  • something that results from something else
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implicit
3 meanings
as in:
not explicitly but implicitly
"Did she explicitly promise?"
"Well, I guess not explicitly, but nobody who was there could have missed the implicit promise."
implicit = understood (without having been directly said)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of implicit means:
not stated directly, but understood (or capable of being understood) from something else
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as in:
implicit problem with the design
This risk is implicit in your plan. We can work to minimize the danger, but it cannot be eliminated.
implicit = exists as an inseparable part or characteristic
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as in:
I trust her implicitly.
Her team has implicit confidence in her decisions.
implicit = without question or doubt
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utter
3 meanings
as in:
utter stupidity
She suffered utter devastation when her child died in the accident.
utter = complete
DefinitionGenerally this sense of utter means:
complete or total (used as an intensifier—typically when stressing how bad something is)
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as in:
utter a complaint
I was too shocked to utter a complaint.
utter = say something aloud
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as in:
utter a sound
She wanted to warn him, but fear kept her from uttering a sound.
uttering = making a sound with the voice
DefinitionGenerally this sense of utter means:
make a sound with the voice
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reflection
4 meanings
as in:
my reflection in the mirror
I was looking at my reflection in her sunglasses.
reflection = image
DefinitionGenerally this sense of reflection means:
an image (seen on a mirror or other shiny surface)
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as in:
lit by the reflection
I watched the reflection of the sunlight in the underside of the pool umbrella.
reflection = light seen after it bounces off a surface to another
DefinitionGenerally this sense of reflection means:
light seen after it bounces off a surface to another; or the process of bouncing light, sound, or other energy off of a surface
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as in:
is a reflection of American values
The diversity of our police force is a reflection of our community.
reflection = representation
DefinitionGenerally this sense of reflection means:
something that indirectly shows something else — such as an indication, demonstration, expression, or representation of something
The exact meaning of this sense of reflection depends upon its context. For example:
  • "The students' behavior is a reflection on the school." — indication of quality
  • "She says the immorality in the movie is a reflection of American values." — expression or representation
  • "It was a reflection of the selfishness she had seen growing for years." — demonstration
  • "The surrounding panic found no reflection in her." — expression or demonstration
  • "I saw no reflection of jealousy in her action." — indication or sign
Word Statistics
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
as in:
After reflection, I think...
Upon reflection, I should have been more patient with her.
reflection = careful thought
DefinitionGenerally this sense of reflection means:
careful thought — sometimes concerning memories
Word Statistics
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
comprehend
I don't think she comprehends how dangerous this has become.
comprehends = fully understands
DefinitionGenerally comprehend means:
to understand something — especially to understand it completely
Word Statistics
Library19 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
novel
We're looking for novel advertising ideas.
novel = new and original
DefinitionGenerally this sense of novel means:
new and original — typically something considered good
Word Statistics
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
apprehensive
She is apprehensive about her new job.
apprehensive = worried over possible misfortune
Word Statistics
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
inconsistent
Her play is inconsistent. Sometimes she's unbeatable and other times she beats herself.
inconsistent = not the same at different times
DefinitionGenerally inconsistent means:
not the same in different parts or at different times

or:

not in agreement [with something else]
Word Statistics
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
critique
Please critique the performance.
critique = analyze and judge
DefinitionGenerally critique means:
an examination and judgment of something
Word Statistics
Library1 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
moreover
The company has too much debt. Moreover, it is responsible for a long term lease on expensive office space.
moreover = in addition to what has just been said
Word Statistics
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
sinister
They created a sinister plan to recruit terrorists.
sinister = evil
DefinitionGenerally sinister means:
evil or harmful; or making an evil or frightening impression
Word Statistics
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
ornate
The hotel is decorated with ornate furniture, lots of carved designs, and gold leaf gilding.
ornate = having lots of decorative detail
DefinitionGenerally ornate means:
of a thing:  having lots of decorative detail

of speech:  more complicated than necessary because of unusual words and phrases (fans might call it flowery or finely finished, but most would call it too complicated or showy)
Word Statistics
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
assume
3 meanings
as in:
I assume it's true
I assume she was at school today, but I don't remember actually seeing her.
assume = accept as true (without really knowing for sure)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of assume means:
to accept something as true without proof
Word Statistics
Library18 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
as in:
She assumed power
The dictator assumed control of the country at midnight this morning.
assumed = took (power)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of assume means:
beginning to take power or responsibility
Word Statistics
Library18 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
as in:
She assumed a false identity
She assumed the identify of her victim until the body was found.
assumed = took on (or adopted)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of assume means:
to take on (adopt, wear, strike a pose or appearance of) — often while pretending or disguising
Word Statistics
Library18 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®top 100
Web Links
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