Jan 28, 2013

Posted by in Question | 15 Comments

Question – What Do You Do When You Come Across A Word You Don’t Know?


*let’s pretend this actually happened*

So I’m sitting in my favorite reading chair and, well…reading, when suddenly on the page the hero sees his future HEA from afar.  She is lithe and graceful and watching her move, her lissom shape, her supple bosom, her…wait a minute.  Lissom?  What the hell is that?!

Has that ever happened to you?  Where you are reading along and suddenly come across a word you have never seen or heard before?

I can’t say it happens to me all that often.  Thank goodness I read books written by authors who don’t flourish their vocabulary too much because honestly, I’m not the most ‘word-knowleged- girl person.  But the odd time when I do come across a word I am unfamiliar with, I tend to just look at it in the sentence and guess what it means.  While I’m in the middle of a scene, the last thing I want to do is put the book down, get up and grab a dictionary.  I just want to keep reading.  But if the word comes up over and over and it looks like maybe my guess as to what it meant was wrong, then I will go and check.  And since I read mostly print books, I don’t have that handy word check feature that most eReaders have now to help me out.

How about you guys…  What do you do when you come across a word you don’t know?

'iPhone Background - Fibonacci' photo (c) 2011, Patrick Hoesly - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/


  1. Doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, I have the handy dandy “look it up” feature in my Nook. Technology ROCKS!

  2. If I am on my kindle I will use the look up feature. However, if not I just skip over it and figure “gosh darn” they were just to smart for me LOL

  3. This happens to me a lot. Especially when I read historical novels and I have no idea what it is they are referring to.
    On my Kindle there is a handy app where you just slide the cursor in front of the word and a magical dictionary appears at the bottom with a definition of the word. I love this!
    Since I use my iPad with the apps now, I havent figured out how to get that same app for the Kindle, Kobo and iBooks but I will be looking because it is an awesome feature.

    If it is a paperback, I do boot up my laptop and find out. Otherwise if bothers me.

  4. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I just double tap on the word and magic happens! The dictionary opens and tells me what does it mean. I love my reader.

  5. When it happens, which is rare, I look it up or ask my 24 yr old son ;).

  6. Ann-Catrin Sköld says:

    Since I mostly read books in english while being swedish, it happens now and then that I come across words that I don´t know the exact meaning of.

    But I just keep on reading. The meaning of ONE word is not that important.

    But when one word keep coming up repetedly, like “primrose” a couple of weeks ago I look it up.
    I REALLY needed to know what kind of flower “primrose” was!

    And now I know. 😀

  7. Lissom – I’m unfamiliar with that one too! I just looked it up though… Lithe or Nimble.

    I love it when this happens!! : ) As a long term reader it’s rare I find a word I don’t know, but when I do I get a bit giddy as it’s a chance to add something new to my verbal repertoire. In the old days, before e-readers, I would write down words I didn’t know in a notebook, and look them up in the dictionary later. Now I just double tap the word on my Kindle to get the proper pronunciation and definition. I then try to use the word at least once in the next week to help solidify it in my mind.

  8. I move past it and forget 😉

  9. On my kindle it’s super easy to look it up quickly enough that I always do it. When I’m reading a paper book, I usually have my phone handy and use the dictionary.com app.

  10. Yep… I have a kindle, so I usually can just look it up. If I’m reading a paperback, I just skip over it, unless it really bothers me (which is never). That is one of the great features of the Kindle (or Nook, etc.) because I now take the time to “look up” a word!

  11. I also mostly read paperbacks Julie, you are not alone in this 😉 but unless a word is repetitive I just ignore it. One word in a sentence is not all that important. If it is used constantly, then I have to find out what it really means instead of what I think it could mean.

  12. Nowadays, I use the Kindle look-up feature, and love it a lot. Before Kindle, as a rule I usually did look up words the old fashioned way rather than skirt them. I really, REALLY, love learning new words, so it’s a treat rather than a bother.

  13. I have to say “ditto” to looking up the word by just clicking on my Kindle. LOVE! this feature.

  14. I mainly read on my Kindle, and like everyone else, I LOVE the dictionary feature. My mom was a big reader and she used to write unknown words and their page numbers on her bookmark so she could look them all up later. I so wish she was still around because she would have absolutely loved the ability to look words up immediately in a reader.

  15. Julie you really need an e-reader! They are wonderful. Ok my soap box is done. I like reading books that have been translated or books that are written by authors who speak English but it is a different dialect then what I use and I find when reading these books I find unfamiliar words. Nalini Singh does this to me a lot. When I am not on my e-reader I have a dictionary app on my phone (I know I am pathetic) so I just pull up the word.

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