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The Color of Water

Top-Ranked Words with Sample Sentences from the Book

instructions
alternative
2 uses
1  —2 uses as in:
an alternative plan
Of course the alternative was Tateh would pull his belt off and skin you alive.
alternative = other possibility
DefinitionGenerally this sense of alternative means:
something available as another possibility
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 8
Web Links
candid
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
your candid opinion
I was surprised by his candidness and said so.
candidness = directness

(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 this sense of candid means:
honest and direct
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
1st useChapter 22
Web Links
congregation
1 use
He was used to us getting hand-me-downs from the congregations and that was fine with him.
congregations = people who worship together in the same building
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library10 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 11
Web Links
contract
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
legal contract
They signed a contract.
contract = written agreement
DefinitionGenerally this sense of contract means:
an agreement - typically written and enforceable by law
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library12 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useEpil.
Web Links
convey
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
convey her thoughts
It was in her sense of education, more than any other, that Mommy conveyed her Jewishness to us.†
conveyed = communicated or expressed
DefinitionGenerally this sense of convey means:
communicate or express
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library9 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 10
Web Links
direct   (3 meanings)
3 meanings, 6 uses
1  —2 uses as in:
directly above; or buy direct from
I'm about to rush the stage, thinking she's having a heart attack, when she suddenly ditches the speech, the page fluttering to the floor, and speaks directly to the microphone.†
directly = straight (without anything in between)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of direct means:
straight (exactly where stated); or without involvement of anything in between
The exact meaning of this sense of direct is subject to its context. For example:
  • "The road runs directly to Las Vegas." — straight (without varying from a straight line)
  • "It was a direct hit." — exact
  • "The plant is in direct sunlight." — unobstructed (without anything in between)
  • "She wants a direct meeting with him." — personal (without other people in between)
  • "She paid direct attention to what he was reading." — close
  • "a direct gaze" — straight, steady, or focused—not a brief glance taken while generally looking at other things; not a sideways look
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library62 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 22
Web Links
2  —2 uses as in:
was direct in my instructions
I could see they were willing to help the band and indirectly me, because I was dying to go to Europe, so I was grateful to them.†
indirectly = incidentally (not the main objective)

(Editor's note:  The prefix "in-" in indirectly means not and reverses the meaning of directly. This is the same pattern you see in words like invisible, incomplete, and insecure.)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of direct means:
straightforward (uncomplicated or simple — perhaps also indicating openness and honesty)
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library13 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 18
Web Links
3  —2 uses as in:
directed the movie
So, from eldest to youngest: ANDREW DENNIS MCBRIDE, B.A., Lincoln University; M.D., University of Pennsylvania Medical School; M.A., Public Health, Yale University; Director of Health Department, City of Stamford, Connecticut.†
director = supervisor (person in charge)

(editor's note:  The suffix "-or" often converts a verb to a noun that means "a person who."  This is the pattern you see in words like actor, editor, and visitor.)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of direct means:
supervise, control, or to be in charge of
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library29 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 25
Web Links
explicit
2 uses
1  —2 uses as in:
explicit instructions
She hung up the phone and summoned my brother Richie to the kitchen, gave him carfare and explicit instructions:†
explicit = clear and detailed
DefinitionGenerally this sense of explicit means:
clear and with enough detail so there is no confusion
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 8
Web Links
gentile
10 uses
He had few friends because he was shy, and even if he did make a friend, we weren't allowed to have gentile friends.
gentile = non-Jewish
DefinitionGenerally gentile means:
a person or characteristic of a person who is not Jewish; or who is Christian
Word Statistics
Book10 uses
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 9
Web Links
infallible
1 use
He was seventy-two when he died, trim, strong, easygoing, seemingly infallible, and though he was my stepfather, I always thought of him as Daddy.
infallible = never wrong; or never failing
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 2
Web Links
intractable
1 use
The question of race was like the power of the moon in my house..., but it was a silent power, intractable, indomitable, indisputable, and thus completely ignorable.
intractable = difficult
DefinitionGenerally intractable means:
difficult
in various senses, including:
  • of problems or disease — difficult to solve or cure
  • of people or animals — difficult to manage or control
  • of materials — difficult to manipulate
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 10
Web Links
kosher
14 uses
My Uncle Hal owned a kosher delicatessen in Brooklyn.
kosher = conforming to Jewish dietary law
DefinitionGenerally kosher means:
conforming to Jewish dietary law

or:

anything that is proper or legitimate (usually used in the negative; as in: Things at the company don't seem kosher.)
Word Statistics
Book14 uses
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 3
Web Links
liberal arts
1 use
My eldest brother's wife, Becky, had gone to Oberlin College in Ohio and she told me I should apply because they had a great liberal arts school, a conservatory of music, and most of all, scholarship money.
liberal arts = studies intended to provide general knowledge and intellectual skills
DefinitionGenerally liberal arts means:
studies intended to provide general knowledge and intellectual skills (rather than occupational or professional skills)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 18
Web Links
literally
9 uses
1  —9 uses as in:
literally--not figuratively
—she was always so proud of David and would literally have carried his books to school for him if he had asked her to—
literally = actually (not figuratively; not an exaggeration)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of literally means:
actually true using the basic meaning of the words (not an exaggeration, metaphor, or other type of figurative speech)
Word Statistics
Book9 uses
Library9 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 2
Web Links
negative
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
negative feedback from customers
They knew how to fire up a church the old-fashioned way, without talk of politics and bad mouthing and negativity but with real talk of God and genuine concern for its parishioners.†
negativity = criticism
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"
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 6
Web Links
opportune
2 uses
During the rare, inopportune social moments when I found myself squeezed between black and white, I fled to the black side,
inopportune = bad circumstances

(Editor's note:  The prefix "in-" in inopportune means not and reverses the meaning of opportune. This is the same pattern you see in words like invisible, incomplete, and insecure.)
DefinitionGenerally opportune means:
favorable circumstances for a particular purpose — especially the circumstance of good timing
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 25
Web Links
orthodox
11 uses
I was born an Orthodox Jew
orthodox = conforming to traditional religious practices

(editor's note:  This capitalized form of orthodox has a specific meaning used in many religions. It references adhering to what was previously commonly accepted by members of the religion. In this case, it refers to a minority of Jews who still strictly observe Mosaic law as was done by the majority long ago.)
DefinitionGenerally orthodox means:
normal (describing thinking or behavior as commonly or traditionally accepted)
Word Statistics
Book11 uses
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useIntr.
Web Links
resolve   (2 meanings)
2 meanings, 5 uses
1  —2 uses as in:
I resolved to stop drinking.
I knew Jack was right, and when I got back to New York in the fall of 1973 for my junior year in high school I resolved to jump back into my studies and rebuild myself.
resolved = decided
DefinitionGenerally this sense of resolve means:
to decide — typically a firm or formal decision
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 16
Web Links
2  —3 uses as in:
Her resolve weakened.
Like most mothers, she wielded tremendous power and my staunch resolve would crumble like a sandcastle before her frontal assaults, which were like tidal waves.
resolve = determination (firmness in holding to his decision)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of resolve means:
firmness of purpose (strong determination to do something)
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 2
Web Links
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Sample usage followed by this mark was not checked by an editor. Please let us know if you spot a problem.
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