Illuminate these shades of meaning

1. If a person is well-known in a community, is he prominent or eminent?

2 What does an archaeologist discover – a vestige or a trace of the past?

3. If you shorten your vacation, do you curtail or abbreviate it?

4. If you and a friend are club members, do you participate in the club or partake of it?

5. If your aptitude for music has been made known, has it been revealed or disclosed?

6. If someone is shrewd, is he sharp or keen?

7. If someone is hard to fool, is he acute or astute?

8. If architecture is up-to-date, is it novel or modern?


1. 'Prominent' means standing out from the crowd and being known at least locally. 'Eminent' implies standing high above all others of the same profession almost anywhere.

2. Both words mean a mark or sign of what has existed before. 'Vestige' applies to an actual remnant of something that existed in the past, like artifacts or tools. A 'trace' is simply a noticeable indication of an activity, such as traces of a campfire.

3. You'd 'curtail' it, because you'd cut off a part of it, causing loss or incompleteness. To 'abbreviate' may mean to shorten, in its general sense, but it does not imply loss. We abbreviate words by omitting letters, but the omission does not impair meaning.

4. You 'participate,' meaning joining with others in an activity. To 'partake' means to take one's share of refreshments or pleasure, perhaps at the club.

5. An aptitude would be considered 'revealed' if it had been unknown or unrecognized before. 'Disclosure' suggests secrecy around some information that has been hidden on purpose.

6. He is 'sharp,' meaning clever in most affairs and quick as in 'crafty.' 'Keen' is far more innocent; it only implies clarity and quickness of perception and thinking.

7. He is 'astute,' meaning shrewd, but also wise and hard to fool. A diplomat is often described as astute. 'Acute' implies penetrating insight or understanding, but the word lacks the sense of quickness or cleverness.

8. Modern architecture is characteristic of the recent times – not old-fashioned. A 'novel' architecture would be unusual or strikingly different. 'Modern' is ordinary, novel is not.

SOURCES: 'Merriam-Webster's Guide to Synonyms'; 'The Random House Dictionary'; 'Webster's Dictionary'; 'The World Book Dictionary.'

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