Tips & Tricks

Real-Life Examples Make Words Stick in Your Brain

As the fiscal situation in Greece threatens to overwhelm the economies of Europe and possibly the world, we can at least be grateful for one thing: none of us is likely to forget the meaning of the word austerity anytime soon. When you encounter the word, just think "austerity measures" or "calls for austerity," and from there your brain will zoom down the neural pathway to the definition's front door.

Wish it were always this easy? It can be. For every word in our Dictionary, you'll see a section on the word's definition page called Usage Examples. We pull these examples from contemporary as well as classic texts so they'll sound familiar to you.

And as you read the examples, you'll notice that some words tend to be used in the same way over and over again.  For example, look up inextricably and you’ll find "inextricably linked" in more than one usage example. Look up inhibition, and you’ll see more than one example of "lowered inhibitions." (Linguists call this tendency of some words to group with others chunking.) "Linked" and "lowered" don't give you the words' meanings in their entirety, but hear "inextricably linked" and "lowered inhibitions" enough times, and your brain will file away the fact that inextricably describes a kind of link, and that inhibition is a thing that can be lowered. You're replicating the process by which austerity and the Greek crisis became "inextricably linked" in your mind.

Try it! Next time you play the Challenge, click "Look Up" when you guess wrong on a word and we'll show you that word's definition, including Usage Examples, without taking you off the Challenge page. The extra few minutes you spend reading will pay dividends later.

(Although not, sadly, the kind of dividends that would be of any use to the Greeks.)


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