"A Long Walk to Water," Vocabulary from Chapters 4-8

A harrowing tale of survival, Linda Sue Park's "A Long Walk to Water," based on a true story, is dramatic and stirring. Told as two separate stories, their eventual intersection is an amazing, touching climax.

Learn this word list that focuses on war. Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-3, Chapters 4-8, Chapters 9-13, Chapter 14-Notes

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. glance
    take a brief look at
    Glancing at her younger sister, Nya did not say what she was thinking: that Akeer, who was only five years old, was too small and walked too slowly.
  2. routine
    an unvarying or habitual method or procedure
    To the pond and back—to the pond and back—nearly a full day of walking altogether. This was Nya's daily routine seven months of the year.
    Another similar word is suggested by the example sentences to describe Nya's daily routine: "route" (which means "an established line of travel").
  3. lag
    hang or fall in movement, progress, development, etc.
    Then he caught up with the group, determined not to lag behind, not to complain, not to be any trouble to anyone.
  4. unwelcome
    not giving pleasure or received with pleasure
    He did not even ask where they were going, for fear that his questions would be unwelcome.
  5. content
    satisfied or showing satisfaction with things as they are
    He knew only that they were Dinka and that they were trying to stay away from the war. He had to be content with that.
  6. terrain
    a piece of ground having specific characteristics
    The terrain changed from scrub to woodland; they walked among stands of stunted trees.
    "Stunted" means "inferior in size or quality"--this adjective describes both the woodland and scrub ("dense vegetation consisting of stunted bushes"). Although the novel starts off during the rainy season, the stunted terrain emphasizes the shortage of water in Sudan. It also makes the walk more dangerous, because they don't have shade from the sun, places to hide from the rebels, or healthy fruits to eat.
  7. stumble
    walk unsteadily
    He stumbled along, somehow moving one foot ahead of the other, not noticing the ground he walked on or the forest around him or the light in the sky.
  8. shuffle
    walk by dragging one's feet
    Usually he walked among the Dinka, but today, shuffling along in a daze, he found he had fallen a little behind.
  9. sluggish
    moving slowly
    Salva wondered sluggishly if they shouldn’t try to keep up a bit better.
  10. struggle
    make a strenuous or labored effort
    Salva struggled to keep up.
  11. abruptly
    quickly and without warning
    Buksa stopped abruptly in front of a very large tree.
  12. cluster
    a grouping of a number of similar things
    More people joined them—people who had been walking alone or in little clusters of two or three.
  13. survey
    look over carefully or inspect
    Salva made it a habit to survey the whole group every morning and evening, searching for his family.
    In Latin, "super" means "over" and "videre" means "to look"--these roots suggest that "survey" is a deeper inspection than "scan" (which comes from "scandere" and means "to climb"), but the example sentences from the novel use the verbs synonymously (see "scan" in this list).
  14. scan
    examine minutely or intensely
    One evening a few weeks after Salva had joined the group, he made his usual walk around the fireside, scanning every face in the hope of seeing a familiar one.
    "Scan" is a contranym because it also has the antonymous meanings of "examine hastily" and "make a wide, sweeping search of"--because the group is large and ever-growing, Salva has to make his scan wide and sweeping. Because he does not have the time to sit and examine each face, his scan is hasty. But because he is looking for his family, he is intent on scanning each person's face as closely as possible.
  15. stride
    a step in walking or running
    When they walked side by side, their strides were exactly the same length.
  16. solemn
    dignified and somber in manner or character
    His face became very solemn when Salva told him that he had not seen nor heard a single word of his family in all that time.
    "Somber" means "grave or even gloomy in character"--this adjective seems to be more fitting for the example sentence, but "dignified" could also fit because as an older man who has been in the army, Uncle would want to keep his face calm and steady to comfort his nephew.
  17. haste
    overly eager speed and possible carelessness
    But it did not take long for Salva to regret his haste in eating.
  18. heave
    rise and move up and down, as in waves
    Whenever his heaving stomach woke him, he would hurry to the edge of the camp to vomit and find others there doing the same.
    "Heave" also means "make an unsuccessful effort to vomit"--this doesn't fit the example sentence, because Salva and the others are miserably successful in their vomiting.
  19. exhausted
    depleted of energy, force, or strength
    For ten hours they walked, and by dawn everyone was exhausted.
  20. cling
    hold on tightly or tenaciously
    He clung to Uncle like a baby or a little boy, hanging on to his hand or shirttail when he could, never letting Uncle get farther than an arm’s length away.
  21. wander
    move about aimlessly or without any destination
    He would never have wandered away from the group on his own.
  22. despite
    contemptuous disregard
    Listening to Uncle, hurrying to stay close to him, Salva was able to make his feet move despite the cold terror throughout his whole body.
    The given definition is for "despite" as a noun, but it is used as a preposition in the example sentence. With the similar sense of disregarding or ignoring, "despite" means "in spite of" but it does not always include contempt or dislike. In the case of Salva here, it connects his walking to courage, because he walks despite the cold terror that makes each step difficult.
  23. stagger
    walk with great difficulty
    Salva staggered forward with yet another enormous load of reeds in his arms.
  24. awkward
    difficult to handle or manage especially because of shape
    Doing something, even carrying big, awkward piles of slippery reeds, was better than doing nothing.
  25. abundance
    the property of a more than adequate quantity or supply
    It was the first place in their weeks of walking that had an abundance of food.

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