"A Long Walk to Water," Vocabulary from Chapter 14-Notes

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. foundation
    lowest support of a structure
    They have to drill farther down, to make sure of getting deep enough into the good clean water underground. And then they have to put in the pipes, and make a foundation with the gravel, and then install the pump and pour cement around it.
  2. grasp
    understand the meaning of something
    It was all a blur to Salva, for he was too excited to sleep, which made him too tired to grasp everything that was happening.
    Compare with "comprehend" in this list. The verbs can be synonymous, but while "grasp" can also refer to physically holding something (compare with "cling" in the list for Chapters 4-8), "comprehend" connects only to intellectually catching hold of meanings.
  3. lumber
    move heavily or clumsily
    Somehow it did—not like a bird lifting off lightly with a quick flapping of wings, but with shrieks and roars from the engines as the plane lumbered down the long runway, as if it had to try as hard as it could to get into the air.
    Compare the description of the plane here to the one in the example sentence for "veer" in the list for Chapters 1-3. A bird is also mentioned here--not in a simile but in a contrast. Not only is the plane unlike a bird, but it also seems more like a person. This personification, with the lumbering and trying hard, makes the readers want to root for the plane, as they would for Salva (whom the plane seems to symbolize).
  4. aloft
    high up in or into the air
    Once the plane was safely aloft, Salva stared at the scene outside the small window.
  5. startling
    so remarkably different or sudden as to cause momentary shock or alarm
    Salva’s first taste had been startling—all those bubbles jumping around in his mouth!
    Compare with "amazed" in this list--both connect to shock, but as the Old English root ("steartlian" means "to kick") and this example sentence suggest, "startling" often includes a physical reaction while "amazed" is only emotional.
  6. brace
    prepare for something unpleasant or difficult
    The plane landed at last, its wheels screeching, while Salva gripped the armrests and braced himself for what was to come.
  7. bulky
    of large size for its weight
    The sleeves were so bulky that he felt as if he couldn’t move his arms properly. He wondered if he looked very foolish now, with his body and arms so fat and his legs so thin.
  8. frigid
    extremely cold
    The frigid air hit Salva’s face like a slap. Never had he felt such cold before!
  9. apparently
    Apparently, it was possible to survive in such cold temperatures, and he now understood the need for the awkward padded jacket.
  10. amazed
    filled with the emotional impact of overwhelming surprise
    At times, the cars whizzed by so fast, he was amazed that anyone on foot could cross safely.
  11. bewilder
    cause to be confused emotionally
    The first several weeks of Salva’s new life were so bewildering that he was grateful for his studies.
  12. concentrate
    direct one's attention on something
    His lessons, especially English, gave him something to concentrate on, a way to block out the confusion for an hour or two at a time.
  13. vague
    not clearly understood or expressed
    He had a vague idea that he would like to return to Sudan someday, to help the people who lived there.
  14. poverty
    the state of having little or no money and possessions
    In his homeland there was so much war and destruction, poverty, disease, and starvation—so many problems that had not been solved by governments, or rich people, or big aid organizations.
  15. comprehend
    get the meaning of something
    His eyes read the words, but at first his brain could not comprehend them.
    Compare with "grasp" in this list. The Latin "prehendere" means "to grasp" and can be seen in the adjective "prehensile" which could describe a monkey's tail that's wrapped around a tree; it can also be seen in the verb "apprehend" which (similar to "grasp" but unlike "comprehend") has both the physical and intellectual sense of catching hold of someone or some idea.
  16. various
    distinctly dissimilar or unlike
    Salva, and Chris and Louise as well, spent hours on the phone to various agencies and offices.
  17. frustration
    an act of hindering someone's plans or efforts
    At times, Salva felt almost frantic at the delays and frustrations.
  18. civic
    of or relating to or befitting citizens as individuals
    Salva spoke to hundreds of people—in churches, at civic organizations, in schools.
  19. maintain
    keep in a certain state, position, or activity
    Some of the villagers would be responsible for maintaining the well.
    The Latin root "manu tenere" which means "to hold in the hand" gives a clearer image of the manual labor that would be necessary to maintain the well.
  20. astonishment
    the feeling that accompanies something extremely surprising
    Nya looked at Dep in astonishment.
    Compare this noun to the adjective "amazed" in this list. In the same part of speech, the words would be synonymous, although their roots would make "astonish" a stronger verb: the Latin "tonare" means "to thunder" while the Middle English "masen" means "to confuse" (this once connected "amaze" to "maze" and "bewilder" but this meaning is no longer used).
  21. gratitude
    a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation
    And deepest gratitude to the people who have helped me with my project, Water for Sudan, Inc.
  22. perseverance
    persistent determination
    I overcame all the difficult situations of my past because of the hope and perseverance that I had.
    "Persevere" and "persist" can be synonyms, but their difference is seen in their Latin roots: "severus" means "severe" so to persevere is to continue despite harsh conditions, which gives the verb a positive and admirable tone; "sistere" means "to stand" so to persist is to continue doing or being, regardless of obstacles or warnings, which can make the verb synonymous with being stubborn, repetitive, or annoying.
  23. depict
    give a description of
    Some of the details in this story have been fictionalized, but the major events depicted are based on Salva’s own experiences.
  24. languish
    lose vigor, health, or flesh, as through grief
    Many of the Lost Boys who were able to return home after the war found that their families had vanished. Others languished in refugee camps like those Salva lived in.
  25. nonprofit
    not commercially motivated
    As of June 2010, Salva Dut’s nonprofit organization, Water for Sudan, had drilled dozens of wells in southern Sudan for Dinka and Nuer communities.
    The Latin "pro" means "forward" and "facere" means "to make"--in this simplest sense of making something that results in a forward movement, Salva's organization is profitable for the Dinka and Nuer communities of Sudan. But in the sense of making money for itself, Salva's organization is nonprofit.

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