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Important Vocabulary for “Number the Stars”

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 1/20/2012

Although “Number the Stars,” by Lois Lowry, is relatively easy to read, it does include some more difficult vocabulary words. Take a look at this vocabulary list for the definitions of some words in the novel that you may be unfamiliar with.

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    Background Words

    There are two types of vocabulary words that you’ll need to know in order to understand “Number the Stars”: background words and basic vocabulary words. This vocabulary list includes both types of words.

    It is important to know the meanings of these background words before reading the novel, even though their meanings may be specific to the time period in which this book takes place, and even though some of the words are not commonly used. Some of these words will help you understand the situation between Germany and Denmark during World War II, whereas others are important to understanding the context of various events in the novel. (See this article for more introductory information about the book.)

    Occupation (page 6): the control of one country by another country, by force (in this case, the control of Denmark by the Germans)

    Resistance (page 7): the Danish underground who fought secretly to bring down the Nazis

    Swastika (page 21): the Nazi symbol, which looks like a cross with its arms bent

    Synagogue (page 33): Jewish house of worship

    Typhus (page 85): a highly contagious disease, usually transmitted by lice or fleas

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    Vocabulary Words

    Many of these vocabulary words are extremely common and can show up in other contexts – from textbooks you’ll study to other novels you’ll read. In addition, these words are often likely to show up on standardized tests, such as the SATs and ACTs. Make sure to look up these words in context in order to understand how to use them. (The page numbers in this article are taken from the 1989 edition, published by Houghton Mifflin Company.)

    Lanky (page 1): tall and thin, usually referring to a person

    Defiantly (page 4): in a rebellious way

    Rapid (page 4): very fast

    Disdainfully (page 29): strong dislike or repulsion

    Rationed (page 43): given out in specified number or quantity, especially regarding food during wartime or drought

    Imprinted (page 49): produced as a visual image by pressing one object into another object

    Tentatively (page 50): with some doubt

    Distorted (page 55): twisted

    Deftly (page 75): skillfully

    Dismayed (page 76): strongly disappointed

    Reluctantly (page 78): with some unwillingness

    Condescending (page 84): in a way that looks down upon someone else

    Gnarled (page 97): twisted

    Sprawling (page 102): falling in a way that one’s arms and legs are spread out awkwardly

    Stricken (page 104): strongly affected by something, such as a piece of news

    Donned (page 106): put on (usually a type of clothing)

    Brusque (page 110): rude

    Insolently (page 117): disrespectfully

    Caustic (page 118): biting, harsh

    Warily (page 120): in a distrustful way

    This “Number the Stars” vocabulary list includes only some of the important words in the novel. As you find more vocabulary words that you are unfamiliar with, consider looking up their meanings and adding them to this list.

"Number the Stars" Study Guide

"Number the Stars," by Lois Lowry, is an award-winning novel that takes place during World War II. This "Number the Stars" study guide can help you take apart the novel and understand the main ideas in the book.
  1. Main Events in “Number the Stars”: Basic Plot Summary
  2. “Number the Stars”: Characters List and Descriptions
  3. Important Vocabulary for “Number the Stars”