A definition/example context clue gives a definition for or an example of an unfamiliar word directly in the text, often in the same sentence. This type of context clue often uses signal words like such as, while, that, called, and that is, along with punctuation marks such as commas, parentheses, and colons. Below are a few examples.

The man appeared disheveled; that is, his hair was uncombed, his beard unshaved, his pants were torn, and his T-shirt was dirty.

In the sentence above, the author gives you examples—torn pants, dirty T-shirt, uncombed hair, and unshaven beard—for the unfamiliar word disheveled. From these context clues, you can guess that someone who is disheveled is not neat or tidy.

A photograph of a female teacher teaching in front of a class.

Source: istockphoto

Both families were elated, happy to see their children married.

Here, the author introduces the unfamiliar word elated and follows it directly with the definition: the word happy. From this context clue, you know that someone who is elated is happy.

Now, you give definition/example context clues a try. Answer the following questions by choosing the meanings of the words in red.

icon for an interactive exercise
  1. Etymology, the study of word origins, can be very useful if you want to expand your understanding of new words.
    Etymology most likely means—

  2. a. the study of understanding.
    Try again.
    b. the study of word origins.
    Correct! The author separates the definition of the unfamiliar word etymology from the rest of the sentence by using commas.
    c. the study of new words.
    Try again.

  3. Of all the trees, I like conifers the best because they’re different from most other trees. That is, conifers don’t lose their leaves in the fall.
    The definition of conifers is most likely—

  4. a. the strongest tree around.
    b. a tree that doesn’t lose its leaves.
    Correct! The author uses the phrase “That is” to signal the readers that a definition might be coming next.
    c. a tree that grows everywhere.
    Try again.