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In the Time of the Butterflies

Top-Ranked Words with Sample Sentences from the Book

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ambivalent
1 use
Back and forth my mind went, weaving a yes by night and unraveling it by day to a no.
...
I forgot my earlier ambivalence, and I blamed Papa for everything...
ambivalence = uncertainty or indecision

(editor's note:  This is from when Minerva had a hard time deciding between devoting herself to revolution or to Lio. She felt pulled in both directions, but when Lio decided to seek asylum in another country, she decided that life had decided for her. She says "I forgot my earlier ambivalence" when she learns that her father never gave her letters Lio had sent to her.)
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 2.6
Web Links
asthma
11 uses
I felt one of my asthma attacks coming on.
asthma = a common lung disorder characterized by wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and sometimes coughing
Word Statistics
Book11 uses
Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 1.3
Web Links
contrite
1 use
Venial sins are lighter, like a rash instead of measles. A rash that goes away even without Confession if you say an Act of Contrition.
contrition = sorrow or regret for a fault or offense

(editor's note:  An Act of Contrition refers to a prayer or other action taken due to a feeling of regret at having done wrong. The Catholic Church distinguishes between less serious venial sins and more serious mortal sins.)
DefinitionGenerally contrite means:
feeling sorrow or regret for a fault or offense
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 1.3
Web Links
defer
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
deferred to her wishes
A central committee was elected. At first, they tried to enlist Minerva, but she deferred to Manolo, who became our president.
deferred = submitted or yielded
DefinitionGenerally this sense of defer means:
submit or yield (typically to another person's opinion because of respect for that person or their knowledge)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
1st useChapter 2.8
Web Links
deference
1 use
Pedrito and I could always swear we knew nothing about these meetings.
It was a problem when Nelson was home from school. He'd go out there, eager to take part in whatever his uncles were plotting. In deference to me, I'm sure, they kept him at a distance.
deference = polite respect —while submitting to another's wishes
DefinitionGenerally deference means:
polite respect — often when submitting to another's wishes
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
1st useChapter 2.8
Web Links
desecrate
3 uses
All of it violated, broken, desecrated, destroyed.
desecrated = violated the sacred nature of something
DefinitionGenerally desecrate means:
violate the sacred nature of something
Word Statistics
Book3 uses
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 3.10
Web Links
diligent
2 uses
I resolve to be diligent with my tasks and not fall asleep when I say my prayers.
diligent = work hard with care
DefinitionGenerally this sense of diligent means:
hard work and care in tasks — often continuing when others might quit because of difficulties
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 1.4
Web Links
dubious
1 use
Yes, Dinorah says. You girls give them an earful, then the rest of us will give them something else.
Everybody bursts out laughing. We've talked openly about it, and I can't say I really miss it, but some of the girls are ready to scream, they want a man so. And, I should add, it's not just the dubious "ladies" saying this. ... These girls can be so vulgar.
dubious = of questionable reputation
DefinitionGenerally dubious means:
doubtful
in various senses, including:
  • doubtful that something should be relied upon — as in "The argument relies on a dubious assumption."
  • doubtful that something is morally proper — as in "The company is accused of using dubious sales practices to influence minors."
  • bad or of questionable value — as in "The state has the dubious distinction of the highest taxes."
  • doubtful or uncertain — as in "She is dubious about making the change."
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
1st useChapter 3.11
Web Links
indifferent
1 use
We cannot remain indifferent to the grievous blows that have afflicted so many good Dominican homes . . . . .
indifferent = uninterested (unconcerned and unsympathetic)
DefinitionGenerally indifferent means:
without interest
in various senses, including:
  • unconcerned — as in "She is indifferent to what is served to eat."
  • unsympathetic — as in "She is indifferent to his needs."
  • not of good quality (which may imply average or poor quality depending upon context) — as in "an indifferent performance"
  • impartial — as in "We need a judge who is indifferent."
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library15 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 3.10
Web Links
indulgent
2 uses
"I've always wanted to study law"
  He gives me the indulgent smile of an adult hearing an outrageous claim from a child.
indulgent = treating with extra kindness or tolerance

(editor's note:  It's as though he thinks the idea is ridiculous, but he is trying to be kind by not directly saying so.)
DefinitionGenerally indulgent means:
to treat with extra kindness or tolerance
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 2.6
Web Links
irony   (2 meanings)
2 meanings, 2 uses
1  —1 use as in:
situational irony
Belonging to the party was an obligation unless, of course, like Lio you wanted trouble for yourself and your family. ...the audience clapped politely. Except Minerva. Dede prodded her with an elbow and whispered, "Think of it as life insurance." The irony of it—she had been practicing for her future profession! [selling life insurance]
irony = an amusing coincidence

(editor's note:  In this case it is surprising that Dede was telling her friend to think about life insurance in such a different context and so many years before she went into the profession of selling it.)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of irony means:
when what happens is very different than what might be expected; or when things are together that seem like they don't belong together — especially when amusing or an entertaining coincidence
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library16 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 2.5
Web Links
2  —1 use as in:
verbal irony
  Minou scowls at her aunt. "Are you making fun again?"
  Dede shakes her head. ...
  Minou is watching her aunt for any sign of irony.
irony = saying one thing while meaning something else
DefinitionGenerally this sense of irony means:
saying one thing, while meaning the opposite or something else — usually as humor or sarcasm
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useChapter 3.9
Web Links
prescribe
5 uses
Mama, of course, noticed the tightening in my face. My bad headaches and asthma attacks worried her. "You need rest," she prescribed one afternoon and sent me to bed in Papa's room, the coolest in the house.
prescribed = recommended
DefinitionGenerally prescribe means:
to recommend or require what should be done

or more specifically:

of a medical doctor:  to give medical instructions — such as writing that a patient should take antibiotics
Word Statistics
Book5 uses
Library9 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 2000
1st useChapter 2.6
Web Links
resignation
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
accepted it with resignation
She had become resigned to her daughters' odd and willful ways.
resigned = having accepted something undesired as unavoidable or the lesser of evils
DefinitionGenerally this sense of resignation means:
acceptance of something undesired as unavoidable or the lesser of evils
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 2000
1st useChapter 2.8
Web Links
resolve   (3 meanings)
3 meanings, 15 uses
1  —9 uses as in:
I resolved to stop drinking.
I resolve not to think of clothes when I am in church.
resolve = definitely decide (with firmness of purpose)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of resolve means:
to decide — typically a firm or formal decision
Word Statistics
Book9 uses
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 1.3
Web Links
2  —2 uses as in:
Her resolve weakened.
I felt my resolve to keep my distance melting down like the sugar in those leaves.
resolve = determination
DefinitionGenerally this sense of resolve means:
firmness of purpose (strong determination to do something)
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 3.9
Web Links
3  —4 uses as in:
How did you resolve the problem?
The young man must know these cases are never quickly resolved.
resolved = settled
DefinitionGenerally this sense of resolve means:
to solve a problem or settle a disagreement
Word Statistics
Book4 uses
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 2.6
Web Links
revere
2 uses
He read books, slowly, mouthing words, holding them reverently like an altar boy...
reverently = with feelings of deep respect and admiration
DefinitionGenerally revere means:
regard with feelings of deep respect and admiration — sometimes with a mixture of wonder and awe or fear
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library11 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 1.4
Web Links
sacrilege
2 uses
We let in only those we knew had come to the table for salvation, not sacrilege.
sacrilege = disrespect of something others consider important or sacred
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
1st useEpil.
Web Links
ubiquitous
1 use
"What could Dona Fefita do to protect me even if I were in danger?" I had a brief, ludicrous picture of the old, rather heavy woman banging a SIM calie over the head with her ubiquitous black purse.
ubiquitous = being present all the time (that is, she seems to carry the purse with her everywhere)

(editor's note:  In this context, ludicrous means "ridiculously amusing".)
DefinitionGenerally ubiquitous means:
being present everywhere or all the time
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
1st useChapter 3.12
Web Links
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