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Context Clues – Types and Examples

Grade 7
Aug 29, 2022

Context Clues 

Context clues are words that say, “stop – don’t touch that dictionary! The definition of the word you don’t know is right here in the text!” 

Information a reader can get from the reading that helps show what a word or group of words means. 

Like in a mystery, you have to use the clues to find the answer! 

Some types of context clues: 

  1. Helping words or punctuation (or, and, called, like) 



May was furious, or angry, at her brother. 

  1. Opposite or same meaning: 


Mary’s cat looks tame when sleeping, but wild when awake. 

  1. Your own experience: 


When Mary’s dog died, she was filled with fried. (you know that if your dog died you would feel sad.) 

  1. Sentences before or after: 


The people were nomads. They went from place to place looking for food. 

  1. Definition provided: 


Mary got a scholarship for winning the contest. A scholarship is a grant or prize to pay for school. 

Types of context clues: 

  1. Definition 
  1. Restatement or synonym 
  1. Contrast or antonym 
  1. Comparison 
  1. Example 
  1. List of series 
  1. Cause and effect 
  1. Description or inference 

  1. Definition/ description clues: 


His emaciation, that is, his skeleton-like appearance, was frightening to see. 

The dudeen – a short-stemmed clay pipe – is found in Irish folk tales. 

  1. Restatement or synonym: 

The meaning is usually right after the unfamiliar word and often separated from the rest of the sentence with commas, dashes, or parentheses: sometimes, or that is, or in other words. 


Meat eaters, that is carnivores, are at the top of the food chain. 

The goslings – those fuzzy baby geese – waddled after their mother. 

She enjoyed biology (the study of living things) 


Flooded with spotlights – the focus of all attention – the new miss America began her year – long reign. She was the cynosure of all eyes for the rest of the evening. 

The mountain pass was a tortuous road, winding and twisting like a snake around the trees of the mountainside. 

  1. Contrast or antonym: 

The unfamiliar word is shown to be different from or unlike another word, and is often an opposite; but, however, although, otherwise, unless, instead, on the contrary, on the other hand, while, never, no, or not may be used to signal contrast. 


Mike’s parrot was loquacious, but Maria’s said very little. 

When the light brightens, the pupils of the eyes contrast; however, when it grows, they dilate. 

The children were as different as day and night. He was a lively conversationalist, but she was reserved and taciturn. 

  1. Comparison: 

The unfamiliar word is shown to be the same or like another word: too, like, as, similar to, or in the same way, may be used to signal the comparison. 


My brother is enthralled by birds similar to the way that I am fascinated by insects. 

  1. Example: 

The unfamiliar word is cleared up by giving an example; for instance, such as, and for example may be used as signals. 


The archaeologist found different amulets, such as a rabbit’s foot and bags of herbs, near the ancient altar. 

Piscatorial creatures, such as flounder, salmon, and trout, live in the coldest part of the ocean. 

Celestial bodies, including the sun, moon, and stars, have fascinated man through the centuries. 

In the course of man’s evolution, certain organs have atrophied. The appendix for example has wasted away from disuse. 

  1. List of series: 

The unfamiliar word is included in a series of related words that give an idea of the word’s meaning. 


North American predators include grizzly bears, pumas, wolves, and foxes. 

  1. Cause and effect: 

The meaning of an unfamiliar word is indicated by a cause and effect relationship between ideas in the text. 


Due to dearth of termites, the aardvark starved to death. 

She wanted to impress all her dinner guests with the food she served, so she carefully studied the necessary culinary arts. 

  1. Description or inference: 

The meaning of an unfamiliar word can be inferred from the description of a situation or experience. 


The monkey’s vociferous chatter made me wish I had earplugs. 

She told her friend “I’m through with blind dates forever. What a dull evening! I was bored every minute. The conversation was absolutely vapid” 



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