Monday, July 8, 2013

5 Uncommon Definitions of Common Words

by Derek Spencer


One of the best ways to develop a robust vocabulary is to read, read, read. The more you read, the more likely it is you'll come across words you've never seen — or learn new meanings for words you already know. Here are a few common words that have an uncommon meaning when used in certain contexts. Sharing these with your students might be fun!

1. Depend (v.) — to hang or be suspended from something
Example sentence: "The locket depended from a delicate chain slung 'round the dowager's slim neck."

I was made aware of this meaning of "depend" while reading a William Gibson novel. It stuck with me.


2. Against (prep.) — in preparation for
Example sentence: "He sharpened his sword and polished his shield against the battle to come."

3. Husband (v.) — to conserve, especially in the case of limited resources
Example sentence: "The farmers husbanded their grain against the impending winter."

This meaning of "husband" is also related to the concept of "husbandry" — careful resource management.

4. Telescope (v.) — to shorten, to condense, to compress
Example sentence: "Her deft and powerful hands telescoped the accordion's bellows, signaling the beginning of the night's festivities."

Usually when we think of "telescope" we think of extending something, as a telescope extends the range of our vision. However, when we use it as a verb, it means the opposite. I like to picture a pirate compressing his collapsible spyglass after spotting the island he and his crew have been searching for.

5. Familiar (n.) — an animal that helps a witch or wizard perform magic
Example sentence: "The Three Witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth keep familiars: Graymalkin, presumed to be a cat; Paddock, possibly a toad (but also possibly a hedgehog); and Harpier, possibly an owl."


Thanks for checking out these definitions. Did you know them all? Another great way to learn new words is through direct vocabulary instruction. Vocabulary Power Plus and Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots can help students discover words that will help them become better readers.



Derek Spencer is a Marketing Communications Associate at Prestwick House. He's rather fond of words and understatement.

2 comments:

Ramonita said...

This is awesome!

Derek Spencer said...

Thanks, Ramonita! Playing with language is so much fun!