Context Clue: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:55 Using Context Clues
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Sedillo

Andrew Sedillo has taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology at a middle school level. He currently holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Education, Master's of Arts Educational Learning Technology, and a Graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

This lesson will assist you in understanding all components of context clues found in literature and how they can be applied to your writing. Learn more about context clues in this lesson.

What Are Context Clues?

Have you ever been reading a book and come across a word you didn't know? So you keep re-reading the sentence to try to make out meaning of the word? Authors know that learning new vocabulary can be difficult, especially if you don't have access to a dictionary. They assist the reader by using context clues, which are particular words or phrases in writing that will shed light on the meaning of certain words.

Authors use context clues to create hints as a way to assist the reader in defining a tough or uncommon word. Readers can find the clue appearing within the same sentence as the word it is providing context to, or sometimes it can be found in the following sentence. This process allows readers to use their high-order thinking skills to construct the meaning of a word by putting together clues found in the sentences around it. These inferences will allow readers to make logical guesses about the meaning of many words.

Using Context Clues

There is not just one type of context clue that authors use. Here are some different types of context clues:

Direct definition: The meaning of the uncommon word can be found in the sentence. The author will usually place the meaning after the word itself. For example: Jason served for six months as a 'volunteer fireman', which meant he worked for no pay. The reader will understand that 'volunteer' means working for no pay.

Synonym: The meaning of the uncommon word will be explained by similar word in the same sentence. For example: The 'habitat', or home, of most kangaroos is in Australia. The reader will understand that 'habitat' is another word to say where something is from, its home.

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