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To Build a Fire

Top-Ranked Words with Sample Sentences from the Book

instructions
acute
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
acute pain
The sensation developed into pain that grew acute.
acute = severe
DefinitionGenerally this sense of acute means:
sharp (severe or strong) — usually negative
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
agitate
3 uses
Each time he had pulled a twig he had communicated a slight agitation to the tree—an imperceptible —————, so far as he was concerned, but an ————— sufficient to bring about the disaster.
agitation = shaking

(editor's note:  The suffix "-tion", converts a verb into a noun that denotes the action or result of the verb. Typically, there is a slight change in the ending of the root verb, as in action, education, and observation.)
DefinitionGenerally agitate means:
to stir up or shake — emotionally (as when people are angered or upset) or physically (as when a washing machine cleans clothes)
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library16 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
Web Links
apathy
1 use
As he looked apathetically about him, his eyes chanced on the dog, sitting across the ruins of the fire from him,
apathetically = without interest or enthusiasm
DefinitionGenerally apathy means:
lack of interest and enthusiasm
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
apprehension
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
apprehension about finals
So the dog made no effort to communicate its apprehension to the man.
apprehension = worry or concern about what will happen
DefinitionGenerally this sense of apprehension means:
worry about what is to come
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
assert
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
asserted her opinion that...
But the thought asserted itself, and persisted, until it produced a vision of his body totally frozen.
asserted = presented itself forcefully (as though to say it was true)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of assert means:
to say that something is true — especially something disputed
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
Web Links
compel
1 use
Once again, however, he had a close call; and once, suspecting danger, he compelled the dog to go on in front.
compelled = forced
DefinitionGenerally compel means:
to force someone to do something

or more rarely:

to convince someone to do something
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library9 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 2000
Web Links
conjecture
1 use
...it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man's place in the universe.
conjectural = where conclusions or opinions are based on inconclusive evidence
DefinitionGenerally conjecture means:
a conclusion or opinion based on inconclusive evidence; or the act of forming of such a conclusion or opinion
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
despair
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
she felt despair
The old-timer on Sulphur Creek was right, he thought in the moment of controlled despair that ensued:
despair = distress (at inability to fix a bad situation)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of despair means:
hopelessness; or distress (such as extreme worry or sadness from feeling powerless to change a bad situation)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
devise
2 uses
Then he devised a way.
devised = came up with (invented or created)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of devise means:
to come up with a way of doing something — typically a creative idea or plan
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
Web Links
endure
2 uses
1  —2 uses as in:
endured the pain
when he could endure no more
endure = suffer through
DefinitionGenerally this sense of endure means:
to suffer through (or put up with something difficult or unpleasant)
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library18 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
entangled
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
entangled in the branches
He squatted in the snow, pulling the twigs out from their entanglement in the brush and feeding directly to the flame.
entanglement = the state of being tangled, or twisted together into a confusing mass
DefinitionGenerally this sense of entangled means:
caught in

or:

twisted together into a confusing mass
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
flounder
3 uses
Slowly, as he ploughed and floundered through the snow,
floundered = moved awkwardly on unsure footing
DefinitionGenerally this sense of flounder means:
to have difficulty — such as to not know what to do or to move awkwardly on unsure footing
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
nucleus
1 use
He tried to poke it out with his fingers, but his shivering frame made him poke too far, and he disrupted the nucleus of the little fire, the burning grasses and tiny twigs separating and scattering.
nucleus = the center (or most important part) of something
DefinitionGenerally nucleus means:
the center (or most important part) of something
such as:
  • in physics:  the center of an atom where protons & neutrons are found
  • in biology:  the center of a cell where DNA is found
  • in sociology:  the closest family (mother/father/children in contrast to the extended family)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library11 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
persist
1 use
But the thought asserted itself, and persisted, until it produced a vision of his body totally frozen.
persisted = continued
DefinitionGenerally persist means:
to continue — often despite difficulty
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library11 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
poignant
1 use
This fear quickly became poignant as he realized that it was no longer a mere matter of freezing his fingers and toes, or of losing his hands and feet, but that it was a matter of life and death with the chances against him.
poignant = sharp or intense
DefinitionGenerally poignant means:
sharp or intense — typically arousing deep emotion such as sadness, but possibly having or creating a sharp smell, taste, or insight
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 2000
Web Links
render
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
rendered service or a verdict
...the dog rendered its customary allegiance and came to him.
rendered = gave
DefinitionGenerally this sense of render means:
to give or supply something
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
subtle
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
a subtle difference or thinker
a subtle gloom
subtle = slightly noticeable
DefinitionGenerally this sense of subtle means:
not obvious, but understandable by someone with adequate sensitivity and relevant knowledge (perhaps depending upon fine distinctions)

or:

capable of understanding things that require sensitivity and relevant knowledge (perhaps understanding fine distinctions)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
Web Links
sufficient
1 use
...an agitation sufficient to bring about the disaster.
sufficient = adequate (enough — often without being more than is needed)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library22 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
Web Links
twilight
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
pink clouds in a twilight sky
The brief day drew to a close in a long, slow twilight.
twilight = the time of day between daylight and darkness (in this case, just after sunset, but in other usage, it could be just before sunrise)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of twilight means:
the time of day between daylight and darkness (just after sunset or just before sunrise); or the light from the sky at that time
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
wistful
2 uses
And all the while the dog sat and watched him, a certain yearning wistfulness in its eyes, for it looked upon him as the fire-provider, and the fire was slow in coming.
wistfulness = full of longing or unfulfilled desire

(Editor's note:  The suffix "-ness" converts an adjective to a noun that means the quality of. This is the same pattern you see in words like darkness, kindness, and coolness.)
DefinitionGenerally wistful means:
showing longing or unfulfilled desire
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
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