Choosing the relevant meaning of a word

Choosing the relevant meaning of a word :

When you use a dictionary to learn the meaning of a word you will often find that several meanings are given.

You have to be very careful to choose the meaning with fits the context - the general thought or idea - of the sentence which you are reading or writing.

For example…

A dictionary might give the following meanings for the word HEAD.

(1) The top part of a person’s body
(2) The brain - the understanding
(3) A chief or leader
(4) The place of honour or command

Those are four very different meanings. These sentences show you the use of each of them.

Meaning 1

Colin has a bruise on his head.

We cannot in this sentence think of head as having the meaning of 2, 3 or 4.

The context of the sentence shows that only meaning 1 is intended.

Meaning 2

Colin has a good head for business.

Here the word head can only mean the brain or understanding. Because no other meaning fits the thought which the sentence intends to convey.

Meaning 3

Colin is the head of his department.

In this sentence it is obvious that the word head means that Colin is the leader of his department.

Meaning 4

Colin was put at the head of the group.

Here it is clear that head refers to the place of honour or command.

Be careful in choosing a word’s meaning from a dictionary. Think carefully before you choose. Consider and try to understand the correct meaning from the context of the sentence or passage which you are reading or writing. It would be absurd if you chose wrongly and wrote the following.

1. Colin has a bruise on his understanding.
2. Colin has a good chief for business.
3. Colin is the top part of his department.
4. Colin was put at the brain of the group.

Unfortunately many English words are not spelled as they sound when they are spoken. As the sounds of spoken words cannot always be a good guide to the spelling, you must learn and remember the spellings of as many English words as you can.

You must remember, though that when in doubt, use your dictionary!

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