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The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

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List difficult words and their meanings from The Story of My Life by Helen Keller.

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Helen Keller's Story of My Life was published in 1903, and words that were commonplace at that time have become more obscure as the English language has inevitably morphed and shifted. No doubt in another century, word choices we find completely normal and understandable will seem strange and even incomprehensible to future readers. In fact, Keller does make every attempt to use simple words and convey her story in a natural way, but difficult vocabulary nevertheless creeps in. Some words from Keller's book that may seem difficult to us now include the following:

soughing: a moaning or whispering noise
multitudinous: a lot, numerous, very many
pinafore: a loose dress without sleeves, similar to a big apron but with a back, worn over clothes to protect them
allurement: attraction, temptation
verbatim: the same exact words
amenities: comforts, desirable features
augmented: increased, made larger
indignant: to be annoyed or to feel put upon
antediluvian: before the great flood described in the Bible
primeval: the earliest periods on the earth
foraminifera: a single-celled animal with a chalky shell
placid: calm 
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Here are some vocabulary words that may be unfamiliar to some readers of The Story of My Life, though there may be other words as well:

  • poignancy: the quality of calling forth sadness.
  • untainted: not dirtied or sullied.
  • tyranny: an oppressive form of government.
  • retribution: punishment to avenge a wrongful deed.
  • oculist: an eye doctor or ophthalmologist or optometrist. 
  • langour: the state of feeling tired or exhausted. 
  • idioms: turns of phrase, popular ways of expressing a concept or idea (such as "raining cats and dogs").
  • vivid: having clear and lively images. 
  • wily: deceitful. 
  • portended: served as warning sign.
  • repose: a state of rest or to rest.
  • epigrams: short and clever sayings.

As you are reading through The Story of My Life, you should circle or otherwise note unfamiliar words and then look them up online or in a dictionary. This process not only helps you better understand the book, but it also helps you build your vocabulary.

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