Vocabulary Lesson – I Have a Dream

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This vocabulary compilation is created from words found in the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
While many words in the list have a host of other meanings (ie ‘score’, or ‘threshold’), I have tried to include the definition to those words as they applied to the speech.

Some additional information
I used the Merriam Webster online edition http://www.merriam-webster.com. After looking up the various definitions I removed extraneous information to make the vocabulary list more understandable to the primary school student. This list would be suitable for 4-6 grade students.

Etymology = Origin

 It is important to learn about the origin of words as it leads to the ability to infer the meaning of other words in the future.

Each word is classified into its various uses. In grades 4-6 students are familiar with the basic functions such as nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives. Here are two new types of verbs a student should familiarize themselves with.

The transitive verb is a verb that requires both a direct subject and one or more objects. The term is used to contrast intransitive verbs, which do not have objects.

 Jill sees Jack. (Jack is the direct object of “sees”)

You pushed the car. (Car is the direct object of “pushed”)

I caressed the cat. (Cat is the direct object of “caressed”)

In grammar, an intransitive verb does not take an object. In more technical terms, an intransitive verb has only one argument (its subject), and hence has a valency of one. For example, in English,

 The verbs sleep and die, are intransitive. Some verbs, such as smell are both transitive and intransitive.

 Some examples are :

 The patient will sleep until sunrise. (sleep has no object)

The cat died last night. (die has no object)

(verb, transitive verb)



bankrupt (noun)

Etymology : from the Latin rumpere – to break
1 : a person who has done any of the acts that by law entitle creditors to have his or her estate administered for their benefit
2 : a person who is completely lacking in a particular desirable quality or attribute ;  : marked by violence or ferocity : fierce — witheringly (adverb)

 beacon (noun)
1 : a lighthouse or other signal for guidance
2 : a source of light or inspiration

 brutality (noun)
Form(s): plural brutalities
1 : the quality or state of being brutal
2 : a brutal act or course of action

captive (adjective)
Etymology: from Latin captivus – prisoner or captive
1 : taken and held as or as if a prisoner of war
b (1) : kept within bounds : confined (2) : of or relating to captive animals
2 : a situation which makes free choice or departure difficult

character (noun)
1 : reputation
2 : moral excellence and firmness
— in character : in accord with a person’s usual qualities or traits
— out of character : not in accord with a person’s usual qualities or traits

citizen (noun)
1 : an inhabitant of a city or town or country
synonyms:  citizen, subject, national mean a person owing allegiance to and entitled to the protection of a sovereign state.

community (noun)
Form(s): plural communities
Etymology:, from Latin communitas – to share
1 : a unified body of individuals: as a : state, commonwealth
2 : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location


 cripple (transitive verb )
Form(s): crippled; crippling
1 : to deprive of the use of a limb and especially a leg
2 : to deprive of capability for service or of strength, efficiency, or wholeness
cripple as a noun (derogatory) “look at that cripple at the corner.”
synonyms – maim, weaken

curvaceous (adjective)
: having or suggesting the curves of a well-proportioned feminine figure
broadly : having a smoothly curving shape

degenerate (adjective)
1 : having declined or become less specialized (as in nature, character, structure, or function) from an ancestral or former state
2 : having sunk to a condition below that which is normal to a type;
3 : having sunk to a lower and usually corrupt and vicious state.

discipline (noun)
Etymology: from Latin disciplina teaching
1 : training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
2 :control gained by enforcing obedience or order
3 : self-control

declaration (noun)
1 : the act of declaring : announcement
2 : something that is declared

decree (noun)
Etymology: from Latin decretum – judgment, edict
1 : an order usually having the force of law
2 : a religious ordinance enacted by council or titular head b : a foreordaining will

democracy (noun)
Form(s): plural – democracies
Etymology: from Late Latin democratia, from Greek demokratia, from demos + -kratia -cracy
: a government by the people for the people. Rule of the majority ; b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system

demonstration (noun)
1 : an outward expression or display
2 : public display of group feelings toward a person or cause


despair (verb, intransitive verb)
Etymology: from Latin desperare, from de- + sperare – to undo hope
: to lose all hope or confidence

devotee (noun)
: an ardent follower, supporter, or enthusiast (as of a religion, art form, or sport)


desolate (adjective)
Etymology: from Latin desolatus, de- + solus – alone
1 : joyless, disconsolate, and sorrowful through or as if through separation from a loved one

dignity (noun)
1 : the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed
2 : high rank, office, or position b : a legal title of nobility or honor
3 : formal reserve or seriousness of manner, appearance, or language


 discontented (adjective)
: dissatisfied, malcontent

discord (noun)
Etymology: from Latin discordia – disagreement
1 : lack of agreement or harmony (as between persons, things, or ideas) b : active quarreling or conflict resulting from discord among persons or factions : strife
2 : a combination of musical sounds that strikes the ear harshly (2) : dissonance b : a harsh or unpleasant sound
synonyms – discord, strife, conflict, contention, dissension, variance mean a state or condition marked by a lack of agreement or harmony. discord implies an intrinsic or essential lack of harmony

discrimination (noun)
1 : the act of discriminating
2 : the quality or power of finely distinguishing
3 : the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually
b : prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment


dramatize (verb, transitive verb)
Form(s): dramatized; dramatizing
: to present or represent in a dramatic manner


emancipate ( transitive verb)
Form(s): emancipated; emancipating
1 : to free from restraint, control, or the power of another; especially : to free from bondage
2 : to release from paternal care and responsibility and make sui juris
3 : to free from any controlling influence (as traditional mores or beliefs)


exalt (verb, transitive verb)
Etymology: from Latin exaltare, from ex- + altus high
1 : to raise in rank, power, or character
2 : to elevate by praise or in estimation : glorify
3 : to raise high : elevate


fatigue (noun)
1 : the uniform or work clothing worn in the field.
2 : weariness or exhaustion from labor, exertion, or stress
3 : the tendency of a material to break under repeated stress

faith (noun)
Etymology: Latin fidere – to trust
1 : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
synonyms – belief+
— on faith : without question

foundation (noun)
1 : the act of founding
2 : basis (as a tenet, principle, or axiom) upon which something stands or is supported


fierce (adjective)
Form(s): fiercer; fiercest
Etymology: from Latin ferus – wild, savage
1 : violently hostile or aggressive in temperament
2 : marked by unrestrained zeal or vehemence
3 : furiously active or determined

freedom (noun)
: liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another :
synonyms – freedom, liberty, license mean the power or condition of acting without compulsion.

ghetto (noun)
Form(s): plural ghettos also ghettoes
Etymology: Italian, from Venetian dialect ghèto island where Jews were forced to live, literally, foundry (located on the island), from ghetàr to cast, from Latin jactare to throw
1 : a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure
2 : an isolated group : a situation that resembles a ghetto especially in conferring inferior status or limiting opportunity


 gradualism (noun)
: the policy of approaching a desired end by gradual stages

gentile (noun)
often capitalized : a person of a non-Jewish nation or of non-Jewish faith; especially : a Christian as distinguished from a Jew


 hallowed (adjective)
1 : holy, consecrated
2 : sacred, revered


 honor (noun)
Etymology: from Latin honos – honor
1 : good name or public esteem : reputation
2 : a strong sense of ethical conduct : integrity

hamlet (noun)
: a small village


hew (verb)
Form(s): hewed; hewed or hewn or hewing
: to give form or shape to with or as if with heavy cutting blows

inextricable (adjective)
: forming a maze or tangle from which it is impossible to get free
inextricably – adverb

invigorate (transitive verb )
Form(s): invigorated; invigorating
Etymology: probably from in- + vigor (from the Latin liveliness)
: to give life and energy to : animate; also : stimulate
— invigoratingly adverb


interpose (verb)
1 : to place in an intervening position
2 : to put forth by way of interference or intervention
3 : to step in between parties at variance : intervene

insufficient (adjective)
: not sufficient : inadequate ; especially : lacking adequate power, capacity, or competence


inalienable (adjective)
: incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred

injustice (noun)
1 : absence of justice : violation of right or of the rights of another : unfairness
2 : an unjust act : wrong


 jangle (verb)
Form(s): jangled; jangling
: to make a harsh or discordant often ringing sound


legitimate (adjective)
being exactly as stated: neither spurious nor false

luxury (noun, adjective)
Form(s): plural luxuries
: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort : sumptuous environment

languish (intransitive verb)
1 : to be or become feeble, weak, or enervated
2 : to be or live in a state of depression or decreasing vitality
3 : to become dispirited

momentous (adjective)
: important, consequential

manacle (noun)
Etymology: from Latin manicula – handle
1 : a shackle for the hand or wrist : handcuff —usually used in plural
2 : something used as a restraint


 magnificent (adjective)
1 : impressive to the mind or spirit : sublime
2 : exceptionally fine
synonyms – grand

(noun, adjective)
1 : engaged in warfare or combat : fighting
2 : aggressively active (as in a cause) : combative
synonyms – aggressive

(transitive verb)
Form(s): nullified; nullifying
Etymology: from Latin nullus – none, not any
1 : to make null; especially : to make legally null and void
2 : to make of no value or consequence
synonyms – nullify, negate, annul, abrogate, invalidate


opportunity (noun)
Form(s): plural opportunities
1 : a favorable juncture of circumstances
2 : a good chance for advancement or progr

oppression (noun)
1 : unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power
b : something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power
2 : a sense of being weighed down in body or mind : depression


obligation (noun)
1 : the action of obligating oneself to a course of action (as by a promise or vow)
2 : something (as a formal contract, a promise, or the demands of conscience or custom) that obligates one to a course of action
3 : something one is bound to do : duty, responsibility


proclaim (transitive verb)
Etymology: from Latin proclamare, from pro- before + clamare to cry out
1 : to declare publicly, typically insistently, proudly, or defiantly and in either speech or writing : announce 2 : to declare or declare to be solemnly, officially, or formally
synonyms: declare


poverty (noun)
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: from Latin paupertas, from pauper, poor
2 : scarcity, dearth
3 a : debility due to malnutrition b : lack of fertility


 promissory note (noun)
: a written promise to pay at a fixed or determinable future time a sum of money


 prodigious (adjective)
: extraordinary in bulk, quantity, or degree : enormous
synonyms – monstrous


persecute (transitive verb)
Form(s): persecuted; persecuting
1 : to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief
2 : to annoy with persistent or urgent approaches (as attacks, pleas, or importunities) : pester
persecutor (noun)


prosperity (noun)
: the condition of being successful or thriving; especially : economic well-being

quicksand (noun)
: something that entraps or frustrates


 racial (adjective)
1 : of, relating to, or based on a race
2 : existing or occurring between races

redemption (noun)
Etymology: from Latin redimere to redeem
: the act, process, or an instance of redeeming


redeem (transitive verb)
1 : to buy back : repurchase
2 : to get or win back
2 : to change for the better : reform


 righteous (adjective)
1 : acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin
2 : morally right or justifiable
b : arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality
synonyms – moral
righteousness (noun)

: oppressively hot
: twenty b : a group of 20 things —often used in combination with a cardinal number c


symbolic (adjective)
Variant(s): also symbolical
1 : using, employing, or exhibiting a symbol
b : consisting of or proceeding by means of symbols
2 : of, relating to, or constituting a symbol
3 : characterized by or terminating in symbols
4 : characterized by symbolism

segregation (noun)
1 : the act or process of segregating : the state of being segregated
2 : the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means


sacred (adjective)
1 : dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity
2 : worthy of religious veneration : holy : entitled to reverence and respect
3 : highly valued and important


selfhood (noun)
1 : individuality
2 : the quality or state of being selfish


 self–evident (adjective)
: evident without proof or reasoning


symphony (noun)
Form(s): plural symphonies
Etymology: from Latin symphonia, from Greek symphonia, from symphonos – concordant in sound, from syn- + phone voice, sound
1 : symphony orchestra
2 : something that in its harmonious complexity or variety suggests a symphonic composition


threshold (noun)
: the place or point of entering or beginning


tranquilize (verb)
Form(s): tranquilized also; tranquilizing
: to make tranquil or calm : pacify; especially : to relieve of mental tension and anxiety by means of drugs
intransitive verb


urgency (noun)
1 : the quality or state of being urgent : insistence
2 : a force or impulse that impels or constrains : urge



upward mobility (noun)
:the capacity or facility for rising to a higher social or economic position
upwardly mobile – adjective

unspeakable (adjective)
1 : incapable of being expressed in words : unutterable b : inexpressibly bad : horrendous — unspeakably adverb
veteran (noun)
Etymology: Latin veteranus, from veteranus, adjective, old, of long experience, from veter-, vetus old — more at wether
veteran (adjective)
1 : an old soldier of long service b : a former member of the armed forces
2 : a person of long experience usually in some occupation or skill (as politics or the arts)
vicious (adjective)
1 : having the nature or quality of vice or immorality : depraved
2 : impure, noxious
3 : dangerously aggressive : savage
4 : malicious, spiteful
synonyms – vicious, villainous, iniquitous, nefarious, corrupt, degenerate mean highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct. vicious may directly oppose virtuous in implying
withering (adjective)
: acting or serving to cut down or destroy : devastating

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