Posted by: jockmackenzie | April 22, 2010

Context Clues #1

thanks to gnurf for the photo

Context Clues

Words get meaning from their surroundings or context.  Listed below are five types of context clues:

1. Direct Clues

Sometimes the definition of a word may appear in the same sentence.  Phrases like was called or can be may come before or after the definition, or the definition can be set off by a comma, a dash, or brackets.  This kind of clue is often used when new words (terminology) are being explained.

e.g. A bogie – one stroke over par – can be expected on a 520 yard hole.

Being lethargic (lazy) is a common fault.

2. Contrast Clues

Sometimes an opposite or contrasting word or phrase from the word you don’t know can be found somewhere else in the sentence.  If you know the opposite meaning, you should be able to figure out the word you don’t know.

Words like but, although, not and despite are often used to indicate a contrast.

e.g. Gaol is the archaic spelling but jail is the modern spelling.

She played like a novice despite her experience.

3. Comparison Clues

Sometimes a difficult word is compared to an easier one.  If you know the meaning of the easy one, you know that the difficult word has a similar meaning.

Comparison clues are often introduced by the words like or as.

e.g. He was as obese as an over-stuffed elephant.

Fred was as cantankerous as an old woman with a mean streak.

4. Related Word Clues

Occasionally two similar words are used together in order to make a description stronger.  By knowing one word, you can often guess the meaning of the other.

e.g. Dancin’ Danny was filled with vigor and energy.

We began to burrow and dig with our bare hands.

5. Sentence(s) clues

In some cases, by reading the rest of the sentence that the difficult word is in, or by reading other nearby sentences, you can determine the words meaning.

e.g. Cumbersome ways to kill a man include crucifixion, stabbing, gas warfare and bombing.  There is, however, a very easy method.

Mr. Elsberg was a master at dressage. It was wonderful to watch him on his huge white stallion leading it through a difficult routine.  Using only leg pressure and slight movements in body weight, he could make the horse do almost anything.  He never once touched the reins.

*By remembering the following sentence, you should also be able to remember the five context clues.

Context clues really don’t stink.



Related Words

Direct Clues


Context Clues Exercise Name:   __________________________

Indicate the meaning of the underlined word in each sentence and the context clue you used to determine that meaning.

1. His real name seemed more believable than his pseudonym.


2. He was unable to conceive or comprehend the solution to the mystery.


3. The drunk staggered falteringly down the street while his sober friend walked steadily beside him.


4. Elvis was a famous, renowned singing star.


5. The weight watcher euphemistically described herself as being pleasantly plump.


6. That the bomb would explode was as imminent as night following day.


7. He is usually quite clever but today he was a complete dullard.


8. They attached the grapple to the other ship before boarding so the ships wouldn’t float apart.


9. The Oilers often lose their home games but last night they vanquished their opponents.


10. After enjoying some yuletide libation, the man stumbled home.


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