offers hundreds of practice questions and video explanations. Go there now.

Sign up or log in to Magoosh TOEFL Prep.

TOEFL Tuesday: Vocabulary – Words that Trick You

This week, let’s talk about words that look like other words, and so can be confusing. You’ll notice that all of the four words I discuss are different parts of speech than the words they look like. For example, we’re talking about the verb “to mushroom,” not the noun “a mushroom.”

(to) Mushroom

This verb takes its meaning from the way mushrooms grow: quickly. Some large mushrooms appear in just one night!

So when we say that something “mushroomed,” we mean that it became very large or common very quickly. Here’s an example:

Since the invention of the smartphone, internet access across the world has mushroomed.

In other words, many people had internet access very suddenly. The number of people grew quickly!

(to be) Minute

This word is interesting because even the pronunciation is different than the more common noun (the short period of time). This adjective is pronounce “my-NOOT,” not “MIN-it.”

If an object or detail is minute, it is extremely small, possibly unnoticeable. Here’s an example:

Unfortunately for her students, the professor noticed even the most minute mistakes in essays that she graded.

Imagine that mistake is misspelling a word—writing “expereince” instead of “experience.” Switching the “i” and the “e” is a minute error in the essay.

(a) Medium

Although this looks like the word to describe a middle size, its meaning is completely separate. A medium is a way that communication or a process is completed. That’s pretty general, so let’s start with a specific usage that’s pretty common: art

The artist used finger paint as his medium to remind the viewer of childhood.

In that sentence, “finger paint” (using your fingers instead of a brush) is the way that the painter creates his art.

(to be) Novel

Once again, this word is unrelated to the word that it looks like—it’s not a book that tells a story. Instead, it is much closer to the Latin root word, which means “new.”

Usually, when we say something is “novel,” we mean that it’s not only new, but interesting and creative. Here’s an example sentence:

The scientist devoted her career to discovering novel uses for plastic that people threw away.

See More In Our Flashcard App

All four of those words—and 596 others—appear in our TOEFL flashcards. If you have an Android or iOS smartphone, you can get the app at http://toefl.magoosh.com/flashcards and start studying those confusing TOEFL vocab words!

Get at higher TOEFL score with your free Magoosh trial

No comments yet.


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Share
Tweet
Share
Pin