English @ the Movies: ‘Hitting Rock Bottom’ – VOA Learning English (Feb 24, 2017)

Our saying today on English @ the Movies is “hitting rock bottom.” It comes from the animated film “Sing.” It is about animals who want to sing and a theater owner trying to save his business. Do you know what “hitting rock bottom” means? Watch our video to find out if you are right!

This was originally published on "VOA Learning English" and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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Google Reports Progress in Bringing Internet Service to Rural Areas – VOA Learning English (Feb 24, 2017)

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This handout photo taken on June 15, 2013 and received from Google on June 16 shows a Project Loon high altitude ballon sailing over Tekapo in Southern New Zealand.

The owner of technology company Google has reported progress in its plan to offer Internet service to rural areas around the world.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, calls the plan “Project Loon.” Its goal is to increase access to the billions of people currently without internet connectivity.

Alphabet has no plans to use traditional wiring, which can be costly. Instead the idea is to float huge balloons about 20 kilometers above the surface of the Earth.

The balloons would act like telecommunications satellites, providing internet service to the rural areas. The huge objects would ride air currents to either stay in place or move to another position high in the skies.

At first, the idea was to have a large number of balloons circling the planet. One balloon would move away from an area while another arrived to guarantee service in the affected areas.

But Alphabet announced it has found a way to make balloons float over one area for an extended period.

In a statement released online, the company said its software “can now send small teams of balloons to form a cluster over a specific region where people need internet access. This is a shift from our original model…in which we planned to create rings of balloons sailing around the globe, and balloons would take turns moving through a region to provide service.”

The company said the discovery was made during tests of balloons launched from the island of Puerto Rico to float in Peruvian airspace. The company said some of the balloons stayed in the same area for as long as three months.

The company said the discovery should speed up the project and reduce costs: “We’ll reduce the number of balloons we need and get greater value out of each one.”

But Project Loon workers must still find ways to increase the life of the balloons. A British Broadcasting Corporation report says the longest service for a single balloon was 190 days.

Google has also explored the idea of providing internet service to rural areas using solar-powered drone aircraft. But it cancelled that project because of technological barriers and high costs.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

VOANews.com reported on this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page.
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Words in This Story

access – n. permission or ability to enter or pass through a place; ability to communicate with a person or thing

cluster – n. a group of similar things

specific region – n. a given area

shift – n. a move or change

solaradj. of or related to the sun

aircraft – n. something that flies; a vehicle for traveling through the air

This article was originally published on the www.learningenglish.voanews.com  and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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Researchers Find Way to Reduce Methane from Cows – VOA Learning English (Feb 24, 2017)

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A researcher at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico. Researchers at the university are studying how changes to a cow’s diet can reduce their methane emissions.

Scientists in Mexico say they may have found a way to cut production of methane, a gas linked to rising temperatures on the Earth’s surface.

The scientists say their method may help reduce the methane released by cows, one of the main producers of the gas.

When talking about global warming, many people think of carbon dioxide, another heat-trapping gas. Studies have shown that large amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reflect heat back to earth, causing climate changes.

Methane is an even more powerful heat-trapping gas. Cows are known to produce high levels of methane when they eat and process food. Farm animals are responsible for 44 percent of all human-caused methane, according to the Reuters news service.

Researchers at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico are studying how a cow’s diet affects the production of methane. The researchers are using a specially designed machine to measure the effect.

Stefanny Hernandez is an assistant researcher at the university. She told VOA that, “approximately 95 percent of methane that is emitted by cattle is from breathing.”

The scientists use the machine to try to capture the animal’s breathing to examine the methane released, she explained.

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Stefanny Hernandez is an assistant researcher for this study on cows’ diets and methane.

Most of the gas is released when cows belch. The digestive bacteria in a cow’s stomach causes the animal to expel the gas through its mouth.

There are an estimated 1.3 to 1.5 billion cows in the world. Each animal releases as much as 120 kilograms of methane per year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that, when measured in pounds, the effect of methane on climate change is more than 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

In addition, a 2006 United Nations report found that raising cattle produces more greenhouse gases than cars and trucks combined. This includes not just gases released by the cattle, but the effect of related activities, such as clearing forests to raise the animals.

Octavio Castelán is the head of the university’s cattle and environment laboratory. He told VOA, “If we can reduce methane emissions, then we can rapidly reduce the effect on climate change.”

As it is difficult to capture the gas released by cows for use as energy, one way to lessen its release is to change their diet.

Scientists in some countries are looking for ways to decrease cow methane. But, Castelán explained, while they are trying different plants and chemical compounds, those products would be too costly and difficult to bring to Mexico.

The Mexican researchers have found two animal food sources offering promising results: leaves from the leucaena tree and the flowers of the cosmos plant. Both plants grow in warm climates.

The researchers found that cows who ate grass mixed with the leucaena leaves belched about 36 percent less methane than a diet of grass alone. The cosmos flower reduced these emissions by 26 percent when mixed with the animal’s feed.

In addition, the two plants do not have a harmful effect on milk and meat production. In fact, the researchers found that leuceana leaves improve the quality of cow milk. This can give Mexican farmers more reason to grow the plants and change their cattle’s diet.

I’m Alice Bryant.

George Putic reported this story for VOANews.com. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English with additional information from scientific and news sources. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

__________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

global – adj. of or related to the world

emitv. to send gases, light, or energy out into the air

cattlen. cows, bulls, or steers that are kept on a farm or ranch for meat or milk

belchv. to let out air from the stomach through the mouth very loudly

greenhousen. a structure that protects plants and extends growing seasons

This article was originally published on the www.learningenglish.voanews.com  and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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Malaysia: VX Nerve Agent Killed North Korea’s Kim – VOA Learning English (Feb 24, 2017)

Malaysian police say the nerve agent VX was used to kill the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Investigators found traces of the poison on Kim Jong Nam’s eyes and face, police announced Friday.

Kim was killed February 13 at the airport in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Two women suspects have been detained by Malaysian police in connection with the killing. One of the women was identified as Indonesian, the other had a Vietnamese passport.

The two women were seen in surveillance footage wiping the chemical on Kim’s face at the airport, Malaysian police said. Kim was preparing to board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to the Chinese territory of Macau, where he has been living.

A North Korean man has also been detained in Malaysia. Several other suspects are being sought, including an official who worked at North Korea’s embassy.

South Korea has accused the North Korean government of being behind the attack. It says Kim Jong Nam has been under a North Korean assassination order for years. North Korea has denied involvement in the killing and said it does not trust Malaysian police to conduct a proper investigation.

Security cameras show the two women quickly walking away from Kim in opposite directions after putting the poison on his face. A Malaysian police official said the women were trained to go straight to washrooms to clean their hands. He said one of the women got sick and threw up after the attack.

Police said they believe the women were paid to carry out the attack and had practiced their methods in advance.

In the security video, Kim appears unharmed immediately after the attack. He is seen pointing to his face while speaking with airport officials and guards. Kim was later put in an ambulance to the hospital, but suffered seizures on the way and died.

What is VX nerve agent?

VX is a highly deadly nerve agent identified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations. It is banned worldwide except for official research purposes.

Experts describe it as a “very toxic” chemical that can kill even in very small amounts. VX has no taste or smell. It can be breathed in, swallowed or absorbed through the skin.

In anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, it can cause a range of symptoms, from vision problems to headaches. It can also cause other serious conditions, and eventually death.

There is an antidote to VX that can be given by injection.

The chemical can take days or even weeks to completely disappear. This raised concerns that other people might have come into contact with VX at the airport. Malaysian police said steps were being taken to decontaminate the airport.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn adapted this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

assassinationn. to the killing of someone, usually for political reasons

ambulancen. vehicle to transport sick people to the hospital

seizuren. medical condition during which a person loses consciousness and the body moves uncontrollably

toxicadj. containing poisonous substances

absorbv. to take in something

antidoten. substance that stops the harmful effects of poison

decontaminatev. remove dangerous materials

This was originally published on www.learningenglish.voanews.com and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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Campus chill – The Hindu (Feb 24, 2017)

Campus chill – The Hindu (Feb 24, 2017)

A very uneasy calm was restored to the Delhi University’s North campus by Thursday, with anxiety still gripping colleges and hostels after two days of violence. For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-2:

  1. chill (noun) – a sudden & unpleasant feeling (of fear).
  2. storm (verb) – move angrily or forcefully (in a particular direction).
  3. sedition (noun) – incitement (to riot/rebellion), agitation, trouble making/provocation.
  4. fraught (adjective) – agitated, distressed, distracted.
  5. stand-off (noun) – deadlock, stalemate, impasse/standstill.
  6. erupt (verb) – break out, flare up, blow up.
  7. hands-off (phrase) – non-interfering, non-restrictive, liberal.
  8. edgy (adjective) – tense, nervous, anxious/uneasy.
  9. mobilise (verb) – organize, encourage, stimulate/prompt.
  10. grave (adjective) – serious, severe; terrible/awful.
  11. intimidate (verb) – frighten, threaten, scare.
  12. rally (verb) – assemble/gather, group, join.
  13. deem (verb) – regard as, consider; think.
  14. heed (verb) – notice, pay attention to, take notice of.
  15. reverberations (noun) – repercussion(s), consequence(s), outcome(s).
  16. provocation (noun) – incitement, prompting, inducement.
  17. bar (noun) – obstacle, impediment, hindrance/restriction.
  18. incite (verb) – instigate, provoke, encourage/persuade.
  19. succumb (verb) – yield, give in, submit/surrender.
  20. academia (noun) – the community related to the education, research, etc.
  21. diminish (verb) – decrease, decline, reduce.

24FEB17_WL2Note:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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Life elsewhere – The Hindu (Feb 24, 2017)

Life elsewhere – The Hindu (Feb 24, 2017)

The quest to find life outside the solar system got a big boost with the discovery of seven Earth-size extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, orbiting a dwarf star about 40 light years away. For further reading, visit “The Hindu“.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-1:

  1. exoplanet (noun) – a planet around a star other than the sun.
  2. extraterrestrial life (noun) –  alien life; life that exists/originates outside the planet Earth.
  3. quest (verb) – search, hunt, pursuit.
  4. light year (noun) – a unit of astronomical length/distance equal to the distance that light travels in one year (about 9.46 trillion kilometers).
  5. dwarf star (noun) – a star of relatively small size and low brightness.
  6. by far (phrase) – considerably, significantly, substantially.
  7. habitable (adjective) – fit to live in, inhabitable, liveable in.
  8. Goldilocks zone (noun) – it refers to the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is just right – not too hot (i.e. close to a star) and not too cold (i.e. far from a star) – for liquid water to exist on the surface of an planet.
  9. transit (verb) – pass through, pass across.
  10. planetesimal (adjective) – relating to planetesimals (planetesimal means minute planet; an ultimately small fraction of a planet).
  11. apparently (adverb) – seemingly, evidently.
  12. migrate (verb) – relocate, resettle, move.
  13. Galilean moons (noun) – Jupiter’s largest four moons named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto are known as the Galilean moons, all of which were discovered by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei.
  14. decipher (verb) – make out, interpret, understand/comprehend.
  15. rule out (phrasal verb) – exclude, eliminate, reject.
  16. volatile (adjective) – evaporative, vaporous; inflammatory.
  17. close by (phrase) – very near; nearby.

24FEB17_WL1Note:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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News Words: Diverse – VOA Learning English (Feb 23, 2017)

This week’s News Words is about the Academy Award’s best actor nominees.

This was originally published on www.learningenglish.voanews.com and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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Disagreements in Everyday Conversation, Part Two – VOA Learning English (Feb 23, 2017)

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Disagreements in Everyday Conversation, Part Two

From VOA Learning English, this is Everyday Grammar.

Imagine you are at a business meeting in the United States. The meeting is held one day after a major sporting event, like the Super Bowl.

You might hear comments like this:

A: Did you see that terrible call the referee made?

B: Yes, but it didn’t matter. Our team would have lost the game anyway.

C: So, anyway, do you think the budget details are correct or not?

Why were two of the speakers talking about a football game at a business meeting? How did they use grammar to show disagreement?

In our report today, we will answer these questions by exploring the word anyway.

We will tell about two ways people use anyway to show disagreement, or contrast, in American English.

Anyway

Today, we are not talking about the term any way, a noun phrase that has two words – any and way. We are instead talking about anyway, an adverb that is one word.

Adverbs are words that change the meaning of adjectives, verbs, or sometimes whole sentences. They tell about a way of doing things, time, reason, and so on.

Anyway is a common adverb that you will hear in everyday speech. Like many other adverbs, it can appear at the beginning, middle, and end of a sentence. Its meaning can change depending on where it is found in the sentence.

Today, we will consider the use of anyway at the beginning and end of the sentence.

Two of the most common uses of anyway in conversation

Susan Conrad and Douglas Biber are two experts on English grammar. They say there are two main uses of anyway in everyday conversation.

#1 Show contrast with another speaker’s point

The first use of anyway is to show contrast with another speaker’s earlier comments.

This does not necessarily mean that one speaker disagrees with another. It just means that one speaker is comparing one idea or thing with another.

When anyway has this meaning, it generally appears at the end of the sentence.

Here is an example:

Passenger: I’m not sure if I have my bus ticket.

Bus Driver: That’s OK. I’ll let you ride anyway.

#2 Show that you want to talk about a different topic

The second common use of anyway is to show that a speaker wants to talk about a different subject.

It could mean that the speaker wants to move back to the main point of discussion. The speaker could also use anyway to show that they think another issue is more important.

When anyway has this meaning, it generally is found at the beginning of the sentence.

Here is an example. Imagine a group of students are meeting after school to prepare for a biology test.

A: What are you doing this weekend? I’m going to a movie.

B: I’m going to play video games!

C: Anyway, I think we need to go back to studying our biology notes.

Think back to the conversation at the beginning of the story

Think back to the comments you heard at the beginning of this story.

A: Did you see that terrible call the referee made?

B: Yeah, but it didn’t matter. Our team would have lost the game anyway.

C: So, anyway, do you think the budget details are correct or not?

You might notice that there are two forms of disagreement or contrast in this example. There are also two uses of the word anyway in the conversation.

One speaker uses it to provide a contrasting point about the call the referee made.

Another speaker uses anyway to show that she wants to return to the main issue under consideration at a business meeting: the budget. This speaker probably does not believe that the game is an important subject. In this sense, she is showing disagreement or contrast.

Anyway and politeness

One important point to remember is this: Americans will often use other words in front of words that show contrast or disagreement.

Speakers will use these words to soften the sudden or unexpected change in conversation. This is probably why the female speaker uses the word “so” before the word anyway.

She is probably expressing annoyance at her coworkers’ comments, but does not want to stop them in a very forceful or impolite way.

Americans can also use the word “well” before anyway to serve this same purpose – softening a sudden change in the conversation.

Using the word anyway at the beginning of the sentence can appear to be impolite at times. How polite or impolite the word sounds might depend on the speaker’s voice. It also depends on the person you are speaking to.

Here is an example of a softer, more polite way to use anyway when you want to go back to an important subject:

“Well, anyway, I would like to go back to the topic we were previously discussing…”

And here is a forceful, impolite way to show someone that you want to go back to an important subject. You will notice that the speaker uses the word anyway.

ANYWAY, I want to talk about an important topic.”

What can you do?

These rules are not easy to learn. However, learning them will help you understand Americans when they speak. You will be able to understand disagreements about what is important to discuss, and how to change a topic in a polite way.

The next time you are watching an American film or television show, try to study how Americans change subjects or express disagreement. You might notice that they use different or similar grammatical constructions.

I’m Jill Robbins.

And I’m Phil Dierking.

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

_________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

conversation – n. an informal talk involving two people or a small group of people

contrast – n. something that is different from another thing

phrase – n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence

adverb – n. a word that describes a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence and that is often used to show time, manner, place, or degree

annoyance – n. something that causes feelings of slight anger or irritation

refereen. a sports official who has power to make judgments or rulings in a game

grammar – n. the study of the classes or words and how they are used

impoliteadj. demonstrating or relating to bad behavior

This article was originally published on the www.learningenglish.voanews.com  and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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Amnesty International Concerned About ‘Us Versus Them’ – VOA Learning English (Feb 23, 2017)

A human rights group is warning against a rise in politically divisive speech and international indifference to rights abuses.

Amnesty International released its 2016 report on Wednesday.

The report is called The State of the World’s Human Rights.

The group criticizes both rich and poor nations. It noted government efforts to restrict free speech in countries such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Russia. It also noted attacks on civilians in places such as Syria, Yemen and Sudan.

Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty spoke to reporters in Paris. He noted that 2016 “was a year in which poisonous political rhetoric” increased in many areas around the world.

Shetty criticized politicians, even some world leaders, for their use of “us versus them” comments to denounce immigrants, Muslims and other groups. The leaders included Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and United States President Donald Trump.

“And at the root of this rhetoric lies a dangerous idea — the idea that some people are less human than others.”

He added that “one of the most dangerous things that’s happened in 2016 is to increasingly start equating refugees with terrorists.”

Salil Shetty said Amnesty is also worried about the international community’s reaction to violence against civilians. These acts include the bombings of schools and hospitals in Syria, migrant drownings in the Mediterranean, and reports of the use of chemical weapons in Darfur, Sudan.

“We have reached a point where there is no longer any red line. Almost no action has become too appalling or indefensible.”

Shetty said many of these terrible acts have been met with, in his words, “deafening silence.” He said people can force their governments to change. He noted that such efforts are taking place in Europe, Africa and the United States.

Amnesty researcher Gaetan Mootoo said there have been attacks against the rights of people who belong to the LGBT community. LGBT is short for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. He also noted attacks against free speech in some African countries.

“People have been arrested, for example, in Cote d’Ivoire because they were protesting against the referendum. Many of them were arrested and released shortly afterwards.”

Mootoo said similar actions have taken place in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Amnesty criticized President Trump’s efforts to temporarily block U.S. visits by citizens from seven Muslim majority countries. It called the ban, “inhumane, unlawful and just plain stupid.”

Trump has said the travel restrictions are necessary until stronger measures can be put in place to stop possible terrorists from entering the country. But federal judges have suspended enforcement of the ban. Trump has promised to write a new order that will be accepted by U.S. courts.

I’m Pete Musto.

Correspondent Lisa Bryant reported this story from Paris. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page.

________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

rhetoric – n. language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable

us versus them – expression

red line – n.

appalling – adj. very bad in a way that causes fear, shock or disgust

lesbian – n. a woman who is sexually attracted to other women; a female homosexual

gay – n. a person and especially a man who is homosexual

bisexual – adj. sexually attracted to both men and women

transgender – adj. of or relating to people who feel that their true nature does not match their sex at birt

This was originally published on www.learningenglish.voanews.com and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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Life without social media – The Hindu (Feb 23, 2017)

Life without social media – The Hindu (Feb 23, 2017)

It was on a highly political afternoon in the not-so-distant future that the social media of the world collapsed into a pile of moral dilemmas, personal problems and ideological conundrums. For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-3:

  1. satirical (adjective) – mocking, ironic, sarcastic/ridiculing.
  2. in the not so distant future (phrase) – soon.
  3. pile (noun) – lot, great amount, large quantity.
  4. conundrum (noun) – problem, difficulty, quandary.
  5. the last straw that broke the camel’s back (phrase) – if someone has a string of problems, and the final unbearable one leaves him/her extremely angry.
  6. presstitute (noun) – a person/media who provide biased news for money.
  7. conviction (noun) – belief, opinion, view.
  8. pop-culture (noun) – popular culture; TV shows, books, cinema, music, etc. that are popular among ordinary people in a particular society.
  9. chaos (noun) – disorder, disruption, confusion.
  10. regiment (noun) – unit, outfit.
  11. disband (verb) – break up, disperse, demobilize/dissolve.
  12. crusader (noun) – campaigner, fighter, champion/reformer.
  13. peer pressure (noun) – social pressure; it is direct influence/pressure on people by the people of the same age.
  14. hue (noun) – character, aspect, type.
  15. jump the queue (phrase) – cut the line; take unjust/unfair priority over others.
  16. profoundly (adverb) – extremely, intensely, greatly.
  17. RT – Retweet.
  18. jittery (adjective) – nervous, hyperactive, fluttery.
  19. epiphany (noun) –  a moment of sudden realization.
  20. misogynist (adjective) – relating to a woman-hater/male chauvinist.

23FEB17_WL3Note:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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