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This I Believe

Top-Ranked Words with Sample Sentences from the Book

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advocate   (2 meanings)
2 meanings, 3 uses
1  —2 uses as in:
to advocate
Sullivan addresses political and social issues and advocates for gay rights.
advocates = publicly supports
DefinitionGenerally this sense of advocate means:
to recommend or publicly support (someone or something)
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 63
Web Links
2  —1 use as in:
an advocate supporting
I moved to Washington to work as an advocate.
advocate = spokesperson (supporter of 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
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 53
Web Links
ambivalent
1 use
I was first hurled into an ambivalent presence many years ago, when a friend's mother died unexpectedly.
ambivalent = uncertain (having 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
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 31
Web Links
civil rights movement
2 uses
My outrage that day became the propellant of my life, driving me straight to the civil rights movement, where I've worked ever since.
civil rights movement = popular effort to establish political and social equality for African Americans in the USA (1954-1968)
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 53
Web Links
despair
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
she felt despair
Active faith knows no fear, and it is a safeguard to me against cynicism and despair.
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
1st useChapter 43
Web Links
dissent
3 uses
He spoke of a time when "dissent is often confused with subversion."
dissent = disagreement

(editor's note:  In this context, subversion refers to using illegal means to overthrow a legitimate government.)
DefinitionGenerally dissent means:
to disagree; or disagreement or conflict — typically between people who cooperate, and often with official or majority beliefs
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useFrwd.
Web Links
divine
3 uses
1  —3 uses as in:
to forgive is divine
I believe in conscience, not as something implanted by divine act, but as something learned from infancy, from the tradition and society which has bred us.
divine = coming from God
DefinitionGenerally this sense of divine means:
wonderful; or god-like or coming from God
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 5
Web Links
heresy
2 uses
Passionate faith I am suspicious of because it hangs witches and burns heretics,
heretics = people with opinions most people consider immoral
DefinitionGenerally heresy means:
opinions or actions most people consider immoral
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 70
Web Links
lucid
3 uses
Before, I was powerless and passive in the face of my confusion, but now I am active: the powerful shaper of my experience. I am transforming it into a lucid meaning.
lucid = clearly understood and expressed
DefinitionGenerally lucid means:
of a person:  capable of thinking clearly

or:

of language:  clearly expressed so it is easily understood
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 31
Web Links
objective
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
an objective viewpoint
Cameron confesses, "I may not have always been satisfactorily balanced; I always tended to argue that objectivity was of less importance than the truth."
objectivity = the quality of considering the facts without the influence of personal preferences or opinions
DefinitionGenerally this sense of objective means:
fact-based without the influence of personal feelings or preferences
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
1st useFrwd.
Web Links
orthodox
3 uses
These days I see people afraid to speak their minds because someone will think they are unorthodox and therefore disloyal.
unorthodox = commonly accepted beliefs

(editor's note:  The prefix "un-" in unorthodox means not and reverses the meaning of orthodox. This is the same pattern you see in words like unhappy, unknown, and unlucky.)
DefinitionGenerally orthodox means:
normal (describing thinking or behavior as commonly or traditionally accepted)
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 15
Web Links
parole
3 uses
Immediately before my colleagues and I conduct parole hearings for the criminals, we meet with their victims if they wish to tell us their stories.
parole = regarding conditional early release from imprisonment
DefinitionGenerally this sense of parole means:
conditional early release from imprisonment in which a person is required to comply with special conditions
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 59
Web Links
pious
2 uses
1  —2 uses as in:
a good, pious woman
I feel, love, need, and respect people above all else, including the arts, natural scenery, organized piety, or nationalistic superstructures.
piety = religious or moral belief
DefinitionGenerally this sense of pious means:
religious or highly moral
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 5
Web Links
positive
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
had a positive effect
I BELIEVE I HAVE A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to make a positive impact on society.†
positive = good or beneficial
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 20
Web Links
rectify
1 use
He has done it the hard way and continues to do it the hard way—by reason, by choosing, by error and rectification, by the difficult, slow method in which the dignity of A is acknowledged by B, without impairing the dignity of C. Man cannot have dignity without loving the dignity of his fellow.
rectification = correction

(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 rectify means:
correct, fix, or make right
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 5
Web Links
secular
1 use
But riding high above all secular controversies was a faith in One who was the Creator, the Giver of Life, the Omnipotent.
secular = non-religious
DefinitionGenerally secular means:
not religious
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 15
Web Links
sustain   (2 meanings)
2 meanings, 2 uses
1  —1 use as in:
sustained by her faith
I've come to appreciate once again that communal reflection about life's deeper matters is sustaining and uplifting and provides a consistent nudge in worthy directions.
sustaining = supportive
DefinitionGenerally this sense of sustain means:
provide support or necessities
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 17
Web Links
2  —1 use as in:
sustained through the ages
though totalitarianism or technocratic government can obtain some swift successes, in the end, only a democracy can enlist a people's energies on a sustained and renewable basis.
sustained = continuing through time
DefinitionGenerally this sense of sustain means:
to continue through time
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
1st useChapter 76
Web Links
venerate
1 use
We stood wordlessly there for a minute or two, venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away.
venerating = regarding with feelings of reverence (worship)
DefinitionGenerally venerate means:
regard with feelings of respect and reverence
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 49
Web Links
zeal
2 uses
I've spoken with high school dropouts who've stumbled upon books describing the amazing achievements of science and returned to their studies with purpose and zeal.
zeal = active interest and enthusiasm
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 29
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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