400 Must Have Words for the TOEFL » LESSON 38 - The Written Word

Word List
  • advent [ˈædvənt] n.
    Coming; arrival
    The advent of the automobile greatly increased the demand for petroleum.
    Usage tips     Advent is usually followed by an of phrase.
  • ambiguous [æmˈbɪgjʊəs] adj.
    Having more than one possible meaning
    The sentence It’s hard to say is ambiguous, with different meanings in different contexts.
    Parts of speech     ambiguity n., ambiguously adv.
  • connotation [ˌkɒnəʊˈteɪʃən] n.
    A meaning implied, not stated directly
    When my boss says, “Thank you,” the connotation is that she’s done talking and I should leave.
    Parts of speech     connote v.
  • decipher [dɪˈsaɪfəʳ] v.
    To figure out the meaning, even though it is written in a code or an unknown language
    The Rosetta Stone helped archaeologists decipher ancient Egyptian writing.
    Usage tips     A cipher is a code or puzzle; decipher means “solve a puzzle written in code.”
  • denote [dɪˈnəʊt] v.
    To mean something clearly and directly
    An “X” next to a name on this list denotes a person who has been chosen for the soccer team.
    Parts of speech     denotation n.
  • illiterate [ɪˈlɪtərɪt] adj.
    Unable to read
    In many villages nearly everyone was illiterate and unschooled, and the few who could read held great power.
    Parts of speech     illiterate n., illiteracy n.
  • ingenious [ɪnˈdʒiːnɪəs] adj.
    Very clever and imaginative
    Ann thought up an ingenious way to keep other people from accidentally taking her pens.
    Parts of speech     ingenuity n., ingeniously adv.
  • inscription [ɪnˈskrɪpʃən] n.
    Something written into a piece of rock or metal
    The inscription on my ring says “August 1, ”because that was the day of our wedding.
    Parts of speech inscribe v.
  • phonetic [fəʊˈnetɪk] adj.
    Related to the sounds in a language
    Children learning to write often make up phonetic spellings, based on the way a word sounds.
    Parts of speech     phonetics n., phonetically adv.
  • symbolic [sɪmˈbɒlɪk] adj.
    Acting as a sign for some other thing or idea
    Since the 1970s, yellow ribbons have been symbolic of hope that someone will return from a dangerous situation.
    Usage tips     Symbolic is often followed by an of phrase indicating the meaning of a symbol.
    Parts of speech     symbolize v., symbol n., symbolically adv.

TOEFL Prep I Find the word or phrase that is closest in meaning to each word in the left-hand column. Write the letter in the blank.

______ 1. advent(a) approach or arrival
______ 2. decipher(b) newly invented in a clever way
______ 3. ingenious(c) to figure out the meaning
______ 4. inscription(d) related to spoken sounds
______ 5. phonetic(e) something written into a hard surface

TOEFL Prep II Complete each sentence by filling in the blank with the best word from the list. Change the form of the word if necessary. Use each word only once.

  • ambiguous
  • connotation
  • denote
  • illiterate
  • symbolic
  1. If my father told me to be quiet, the __________ was “I have a headache.”
  2. The president’s response, “Wait and see,” was __________, meaning that perhaps he would take action, perhaps not.
  3. In English writing, a mark called an apostrophe usually __________ a missing letter, as in isn’t for is not.
  4. A circle with a plus attached (+) is __________ of “woman” and of the planet Venus.
  5. Farley was a poor, __________ boy from a remote area who later taught himself to read and write.
Answer Key
TOEFL Prep I
  1. a
  2. c
  3. b
  4. e
  5. d
TOEFL Prep II
  1. connotation
  2. ambiguous
  3. denote
  4. symbolic
  5. literate
Answer Key

TOEFL Success Read the passage to review the vocabulary you have learned. Answer the questions that follow.

Johannes Gutenberg’s ingenious use of movable type in his printing press had a wide range of effects on European societies. Most obviously, readers no longer had to decipher odd handwriting, with ambiguous lettering, in order to read a written work. Gutenberg gave each letter standard forms, a move that had connotations far beyond the printing business. The inscriptions on tombstones and roadside mileposts, for example, could now be standardized. The cost of books decreased. Even illiterate people benefited indirectly from the advent of this invention, as the general level of information in society increased. However, Gutenberg’s press was of limited use for languages that used picture-like symbols for writing instead of a phonetic system. Systems of symbolic pictographs, each of which denotes a word, require many thousands of characters to be cast into lead type by the printer. Phonetic systems, like the Latin alphabet, use the same few characters, recombined in thousands of ways to make different words.

Bonus StructureMost obviously introduces an easyto-see effect and implies that lessclear effects will come later.

  1. According to this reading, how did the invention of the printing press benefit illiterate people?
    • a. It helped them learn to read.
    • b. It raised the level of information in a society.
    • c. It lowered the cost of books.
    • d. It saved them from having to read ambiguous handwriting.
  2. Why was Gutenberg’s press not very practical for languages that use picture-like symbols?
    • a. because character-based languages are made of pictographs
    • b. because phonetic alphabets are clearer
    • c. because there are too many characters to make movable type for each one
    • d. because Gutenberg was European, so he didn’t know any character based languages
Answer Key
Answer Key
  1. b
  2. c
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