Contextual meaning or Contextual usage is another important word-based question. Contextual usage basically involves identifying the synonym/antonym of a word when it is used in a particular context so that the context provides you a clue to the meaning, even if the word is unfamiliar to you.


Example 1

MORIBUND: By the fourth century AD, the Roman Civilization was already moribund.

          (1) extinct           (2) forgotten                (3) flourishing              (4) stagnant

In the context of the given sentence the meaning of the word will be stagnant, hence [4].

    There may be sentences where most or even all of the options are synonymous to the highlighted word, but only one of them fits the particular context. This means that you have to be aware of the very subtle nuances of the words, making contextual usage more of a challenge to your command over words.


More Examples

GELID: It is hard to believe that any life could ever arise in the gelid environment of Titan.

          (1) Frigid                        (2) Suffocation                        (3) gelatinous               (4) hostile

Gelid means icy cold or frozen. In the context also we can see that gelid can refer to a cold environment where no life can arise.

The answer is [1].


Strategies for contextual usage:

The following steps and strategies will be useful while attempting contextual usage questions:

(1) Read the highlighted word first; if it is familiar to you try to think of a synonym for it before going on to read the sentence or the option.

(2) If it is not a familiar word, simply read the sentence and try to understand its meaning from the context. Think of a word that could suitably take its place.

(3) Read the options if one of them is the word you thought of in step 1 or 2, or its close synonym, then choose that as an answer not before at least glancing at the other options and trying to see if one of them might be more suitable.

(4) If none of the options is similar to the word you thought of in step 1 or 2, then read all the options and see if any of them suit the context of the sentence.

(5) If you cannot understand the word from the context of the sentence or if you have trouble understanding the sentence itself, then look at the options. Sometimes the options can give you a clue, if you know where to look. For example, if all the options, except one, have a negative / positive connotation then the exception is likely to be the answer. Also sometimes the words in the options are much more familiar ones than the question word, so using them in the sentence instead of the question word should help you eliminate the wrong options.