Words with many meanings

When you do look in your dictionary, you may find that one word has many meanings. If you compare these, however, you will often find that they are not so different from each other, so try to look for one central meaning.

Words that go together

Remember also to write down any other words which are often found together with your new word. For example, notice in your dictionary that we normally use the word to after the word similar (a ‚dependent preposition‘) and that it is usually policies, plans or programs and so on which are formulated (examples of ‚collocations‘). This information will help you to use new words correctly.

To sum up:

  • decide if the word in the example sentence is a verb, a noun, or an adjective
  • read the other words to help you guess the meaning of the new word
  • then if necessary use your dictionary to select a suitable answer
  • if possible, choose one central meaning for the word from the dictionary entry
  • write down your new word with an example sentence to help you remember its meaning
  • note down any dependent prepositions or collocations to help you use the word correctly

    Here you find an appropriate online dictionary.

Fill in the gaps

Fill in the gaps

From the following list, use each word only once to complete the sentences below. Remember that in the case of nouns and verbs you may need to change the form of the word:

arbitrary (adj) | assign (v) | context (n) | criterion (n) | data (n) denote (v) | devise (v) | formulate (v) | ignore (v) | impact (n) similar (adj) | summary (n) | usage (n) | vertical (adj)

1) Although not exactly identical, the two books are so   to each other that one author must have copied much of his book from the other.
2. The Prime Minister set up a committee of financial experts to help him discuss and   new policies.
3. It is often possible to guess the meaning of a word from the other words around it — that is to say, the   .
4. In 1990, the British researcher Tim Berners-Lee   the first browser, and so paved the way for the development of the World Wide Web.

arbitrary (adj) | assign (v) | context (n) | criterion (n) | data (n) denote (v) | devise (v) | formulate (v) | ignore (v) | impact (n) similar (adj) | summary (n) | usage (n) | vertical (adj)

5. In newspapers, the layout of the columns is  , while the rows run across the page horizontally.
6. The rise in the number of deaths from AIDS has had a very significant   on people’s sexual behaviour.
7. The   of drugs has increased significantly in spite of more severe penalties such as longer prison sentences.
8. Students should not try to write down everything they hear in a lecture, but just make a   of the most important points.
9. We use the term „class“ to   groups of people who share the same social and economic backgrounds.
10. In one case, a murderer may go to prison for life, while another may be set free: it all seems completely   .

arbitrary (adj) | assign (v) | context (n) | criterion (n) | data (n) denote (v) | devise (v) | formulate (v) | ignore (v) | impact (n) similar (adj) | summary (n) | usage (n) | vertical (adj)

11. The new journalist was   to researching the election promises of the main political parties.
12. Before we can judge a government’s success, we have to decide the   , such as unemployment, defence or taxation.
13. One student failed because he completely   the instructions on thepaper, although they appeared at the top of every page.
14. Market researchers use   such as people’s spending patterns as well as information about age and occupation to decide on the most effective marketing strategies.


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