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I Have a Dream

Top-Ranked Words with Sample Sentences from the Book

instructions
desolate
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
felt desolate
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
desolate = sad and lonely
DefinitionGenerally this sense of desolate means:
sad or miserable—and often lonely
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
despair
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
she felt despair
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
despair = hopelessness
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
discord
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
discord amongst the group
With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
discords = conflicts

(editor's note:  Since he goes on to talk of a beautiful symphony, he is also using the musical sense of discord, which means "unpleasant sounding when put together".)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of discord means:
conflict or disagreement — especially among those expected to cooperate

or (especially in the form discordant):

seeming different  or wrong along with everything else
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
discriminate
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
suffered discrimination
...sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
discrimination = unfair treatment due to race

(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 this sense of discriminate means:
to treat people of different groups differently — especially unfair treatment due to race, religion or gender
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 2000
Web Links
exalt
1 use
I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be...
exalted = elevated with praise, glorify, or honor
DefinitionGenerally exalt means:
praise, glorify, or honor

or:

fill with extreme happiness
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 2000
Web Links
exile
1 use
One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.
exile = (like) a person without a home country
DefinitionGenerally exile means:
to force someone to live outside of their homeland; or living in such a condition

or more rarely:  voluntary absence from a place someone would rather be
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library10 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
hallowed
1 use
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now.
hallowed = revered (respected) or sacred (holy)
DefinitionGenerally hallowed means:
of something declared or believed to be holy

or:

widely respected and revered over time
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
inextricable
1 use
And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
inextricably = in a manner that is impossible to disentangle (to separate)
DefinitionGenerally inextricable means:
impossible to extract, disentangle, or avoid; or hopelessly intricate
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
Web Links
militant
1 use
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
militancy = social activism

(editor's note:  This more commonly refers to physical fighting, but since King is clearly referring to the battle of ideas as fought through social activism.)
DefinitionGenerally militant means:
using extreme or violent methods used to achieve a political goal; or someone who uses such methods
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
obligation
1 use
Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
obligation = duty
DefinitionGenerally obligation means:
a duty
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library10 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
oppress
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
oppressive government
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
oppression = the denial equal rights to others

(editor's note:  Oppress is often used in the form oppressive to refer to extreme discomfort as in, "The heat is oppressive."  So using the metaphor of "sweltering with the heat of oppression" is especially appropriate.)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of oppress means:
to dominate harshly and unfairly; or to make suffer
The meaning of oppress depends upon its context. For example:
  • "The authorities oppress political activists," or "The new nation oppressed Native Americans." — to dominate harshly and unfairly
  • "She is oppressed by excessive debt." - made to suffer
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
persecution
1 use
And some of you have come from areas where your quest—quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.
persecution = bad, ongoing, and unfair treatment (in this case because of race)
DefinitionGenerally persecution means:
very bad and unfair treatment of others — usually because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political beliefs
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 2000
Web Links
prodigious
1 use
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
prodigious = enormous
DefinitionGenerally prodigious means:
enormous; or far beyond what is usual in magnitude or degree
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
republic
1 use
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
republic = a system of government in which a majority of citizens elect representatives to make laws
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library10 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
righteous
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
a righteous cause
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
righteousness = morally correct behavior
DefinitionGenerally this sense of righteous means:
morally correct; or morally justified

or:

acting or feeling morally superior — especially when it isn't true (this meaning is more typically seen as a compound word beginning with "self-")
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
sear
1 use
This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.
seared = burned with intense heat
DefinitionGenerally sear means:
burn the surface with intense heat; or burn something unpleasant into memory
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
sufficient
2 uses
We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
insufficient = not adequate

(Editor's note:  The prefix "in-" in insufficient means not and reverses the meaning of sufficient. This is the same pattern you see in words like invisible, incomplete, and insecure.)
DefinitionGenerally sufficient means:
adequate (enough — often without being more than is needed)
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library22 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
Web Links
symphony
1 use
With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
symphony = a long and complex piece of music
DefinitionGenerally symphony means:
a long and complex piece of music — typically for full orchestra in four parts;

or:  an orchestra that plays such; or such a performance
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
tranquil
1 use
And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
tranquility = peace and quiet; or calmness
DefinitionGenerally tranquil means:
calm and undisturbed
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
wither
1 use
...hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.
withering = humiliating; or intense
DefinitionGenerally wither means:
to shrivel (wrinkle and contract — usually from lack of water)

or:

to become weaker; or feel humiliated
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library12 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
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