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Glossary of Common Second Meanings


Glossary of Common Second Meanings

Glossary of Common Second Meanings


Many common words in English have multiple meanings that often go beyond the primary definitions we first learn. This post explores the secondary meanings of 50 frequently used terms to help broaden your vocabulary and comprehension. With definitions and illustrative examples for each word, this glossary will illuminate the alternative senses you may encounter for familiar language. This post is also perfect for standardized test takers: SAT, ACT, and EST takers.

Glossary of Common Second Meanings

  1. Afford - Grant (e.g., His academic excellence afforded him the opportunity to attend any university of his choice.)
  2. Appreciate - To recognize the value of (e.g., I appreciate your thoughtfulness in bringing me soup when I was sick.) 
  3. Arrest - To stop (e.g., The medication helped arrest the spread of the infection.)
  4. Assume - To take on responsibility for (e.g., She will assume the role of CEO starting next month.)
  5. Austerity - Financial policy to reduce spending on non-essentials (e.g., The country instituted austerity measures during the recession.)
  6. Badger - To pester or annoy (e.g., The paparazzi badgered the celebrity with intrusive questions.)
  7. Bent - Liking or inclination (e.g., She has a bent for solving puzzles and logic games.)
  8. Capacity - Ability (e.g., As an intern, he demonstrated a strong capacity for taking initiative.) 
  9. Chance - To attempt (e.g., We should chance contacting the senator to share our concerns.)
  10. Channel - To direct toward a purpose (e.g., She channeled her energy into training for the marathon.)
  11. Check - To restrain or reduce (e.g., Several factors checked the frog population decline.)
  12. Coin - To invent a new word or phrase (e.g., Shakespeare coined many terms we still use like "bedroom.")
  13. Compromise - To endanger, or put at risk (e.g., Failing to study compromises your chances of passing the exam.)
  14. Constitution - Physical makeup (e.g., The player had a strong constitution well-suited for football.)
  15. Conviction - Certainty, determination (e.g., She upheld her convictions even under fierce opposition.)  
  16. Couch - To present diplomatically or subtly (e.g., He couched his criticism tactfully to avoid causing offense.)
  17. Discriminating - Able to make fine distinctions (e.g., A discriminating listener can detect subtle notes in music.)
  18. Doctor - To alter, falsify (e.g., He was accused of doctoring the documents prior to the trial.)
  19. Economy - Efficiency of expression/thriftiness (e.g., The writer's economy with words allowed her to convey much meaning succinctly.)
  20. Embroider - To embellish or exaggerate (e.g., She had a tendency to embroider stories with elaborations.)
  21. Execute - To carry out (e.g., The team executed the plan flawlessly.)
  22. Exploit - Utilize, make use of (e.g., Let's exploit every opportunity to advance our agenda.)
  23. Facility - Ease, adeptness (e.g., She has a facility for learning foreign languages.)
  24. Foil - To thwart, prevent (e.g., Increased security helped foil attempted trespassers.)
  25. Grave - Serious, solemn (e.g., The coach's grave demeanor indicated the team's challenges.) 
  26. Grill - To question intensely (e.g., Journalists grilled the politician about the scandal.)
  27. Hamper -To hinder or impede (e.g., A lack of resources hampered research efforts.)
  28. Harbor - To hold or possess (e.g., I still harbor fond memories from childhood.)
  29. Hobble -To impede the progress of (e.g., Injuries hobbled the athlete's training regimen.)
  30. Plastic - Flexible, malleable (e.g., Children's brains have more plasticity than adult brains.)
  31. Provoke - Elicit, evoke (e.g., The speaker's words provoked strong reactions from the crowd.)
  32. Realize - Achieve, accomplish (e.g., After years of work, she finally realized her dream of opening a bakery.)
  33. Reconcile - Resolve conflicts between (e.g., He helped reconcile the feuding parties through diplomacy.)
  34. Relay - Pass along, transmit (e.g., The messenger relayed the news throughout the village.)
  35. Relate - Give an account of (e.g., She related the story of how they first met.) 
  36. Reservations - Doubt, hesitation (e.g., I have some reservations about this plan.)
  37. Reserve - To be conservative or cautious (e.g., The analyst reserved judgment until seeing more data.)
  38. Ruffled - Flustered, discombobulated (e.g., The teen was ruffled by her first job interview.)
  39. Sap - Drain, exhaust (e.g., The heat sapped our energy as we hiked.)
  40. Scrap - Discard, abandon (e.g., Due to lack of funding, the initiative was scrapped.)
  41. Shelve - To temporarily set aside or suspend (e.g., With key supporters absent, the bill was shelved until the next session.)
  42. Solvent - Able to pay debts (e.g., The company remained financially solvent despite downturns.)
  43. Sound - Valid, well-reasoned (e.g., The study's findings were based on sound methodology.)
  44. Spare - Unadorned, plain (e.g., He appreciated the room's spare, minimalist aesthetic.)
  45. Static - Unchanging, lacking movement (e.g., After the initial shock, housing prices remained static for months.)
  46. Sustain - Withstand, support (e.g., Proper rest helps sustain energy levels.)
  47. Uniform - Consistent, even (e.g., The potatoes were peeled to uniform thinness.) 
  48. Unqualified - Absolute, without reservations (e.g., The award recognizes professionals with unqualified excellence in the field.)
  49. Upset - Disrupt an expected outcome (e.g., The underdog team upset the championship favorites.)


With a handle on these common second meanings, you’ll understand nuances and avoid confusion when reading or listening. Refer back to this glossary to clarify these alternative definitions and see them applied through relevant examples. An expanded vocabulary prepares you for higher-level texts and more effective communication.



Q: What are some tips for learning second meanings?

A: Study words in context, keep a vocabulary journal, use flashcards, read high-level texts, and refer back to dictionary definitions.

Q: How can you determine if a word has multiple meanings?

A: Check dictionary entries, which provide all definitions. Or if a sentence doesn't make sense, a second meaning may be intended.

Q: Why is understanding multiple meanings important?

A: It builds a precise vocabulary, improves reading comprehension, allows appropriate word choice, and prevents misinterpretation.

Q: How many meanings can some words have?

A: Some very common words like "set," "run," and "take" have several dozen different meanings depending on context.

Q: Where can you find resources for alternative definitions?

A: Dictionaries, thesauruses, vocabulary books/websites, and reading challenging materials provide second meanings.


  1. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Dictionary.
  2. TheFreeDictionary. (n.d.) Dictionary, encyclopedia, and thesaurus.
  3. Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.) Dictionary.
  4. Oxford Learner's Dictionaries. (n.d.) Dictionary.
  5. (n.d.) Dictionary.
Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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