SSAT Middle Level Reading : Finding Context-Dependent Meanings of Words in Narrative Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SSAT Middle Level Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

Perhaps the most striking feature of a medieval village was its self-sufficiency. The inhabitants tried to produce at home everything they required, in order to avoid the uncertainty and expense of trade. The land gave them their food; the forest provided them with wood for houses and furniture. They made their own clothes of flax, wool, and leather. Their meal and flour were ground at the village mill, and at the village smithy their farm implements were manufactured. The chief articles which needed to be brought from some distant market were salt, used to salt down farm animals killed in autumn, iron for various tools, and millstones. Cattle, horses, and surplus grain also formed common objects of exchange between manors.

Life in a medieval village was rude and rough. The peasants labored from sunrise to sunset, ate coarse fare, lived in huts, and suffered from frequent diseases. They were often the helpless prey of the feudal nobles. If their lord happened to be a quarrelsome man, given to fighting with his neighbors, they might see their lands ravaged, their cattle driven off, their village burned, and might themselves be slain. Even under peaceful conditions the narrow, shut-in life of the manor could not be otherwise than degrading.

Yet there is another side to the picture. If the peasants had a just and generous lord, they probably led a fairly comfortable existence. Except when crops failed, they had an abundance of food, and possibly wine or cider drink. They shared a common life in the work of the fields, in the sports of the village green, and in the services of the parish church. They enjoyed many holidays; it has been estimated that, besides Sundays, about eight weeks in every year were free from work. Festivities at Christmas, Easter, and May Day, at the end of ploughing and the completion of harvest, relieved the monotony of the daily round of labor. Perhaps these medieval peasants were not much worse off than the agricultural laborers in most countries of modern Europe. 

The underlined word “manufactured” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

destroyed

improved

made

sold

perfected

Correct answer:

made

Explanation:

The word “manufactured” means built or made. However, if you did not know this, it would become necessary to read in context to try and figure out the meaning of the word. “[Peasants] made their own clothes of flax, wool, and leather. Their meal and flour were ground at the village mill, and at the village smithy their farm implements were manufactured.” In this part of the passage, the author is talking about how the peasants made or built all the things they needed, so when he discusses farm implements being manufactured, it is a continuation of the discussion of how the peasants were self-sufficient and made almost everything they needed.

Example Question #2 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Man who Spoiled Napoleon’s Destiny by Rev. W. H. Fitchett, LL.D. (1899)

From March 18 to May 20, 1799—for more than sixty days and nights, that is—a little, half-forgotten, and more than half-ruined Syrian town was the scene of one of the fiercest and most dramatic sieges recorded in military history. And rarely has there been a struggle so apparently one-sided.

A handful of British sailors and Turkish irregulars were holding Acre, a town without regular defenses, against Napoleon, the most brilliant military genius of his generation, with an army of 10,000 war-hardened veterans, the "Army of Italy"—soldiers who had dared the snows of the Alps and conquered Italy, and to whom victory was a familiar experience. In their ranks military daring had reached, perhaps, its very highest point. And yet the sailors inside that ring of crumbling wall won! At Acre Napoleon experienced his first defeat; and, years after, at St. Helena, he said of Sir Sidney Smith, the gallant sailor who baffled him, "That man made me miss my destiny." It is a curious fact that one Englishman thwarted Napoleon's career in the East, and another ended his career in the West, and it may be doubted which of the two Napoleon hated most—Wellington, who finally overthrew him at Waterloo, or Sidney Smith, who, to use Napoleon's own words, made him "miss his destiny," and exchange the empire of the East for a lonely pinnacle of rock in the Atlantic.

What does the underlined word “recorded” most nearly mean?

Possible Answers:

That ended

Spoken to 

Written down 

Listened to 

That happened

Correct answer:

Written down 

Explanation:

In context the word “recorded” is used to mean written down, documented, or made notes about. Because the author talks about the siege as “recorded in military history,” the only other answer choice that could make sense is “that happened,” but this is not one of the various definitions of the word “recorded.” Recorded can mean taped and not performed live or written down, and in this context it means written down.

Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

Henry II, who ascended the English throne in 1154 C.E., was a grandson of William the Conqueror and the first of the famous Plantagenet family, Henry spent more than half of his reign abroad, looking after his extensive possessions in France, but this fact did not prevent him from giving England good government. Three things in which all Englishmen take special pride—the courts, the jury system, and the Common law—began to take shape during Henry's reign.

Henry, first of all, developed the royal court of justice. This had been, at first, simply the court of the king's chief vassals, corresponding to the local feudal courts. Henry transformed it from an occasional assembly of warlike nobles into a regular body of trained lawyers, and at the same time opened its doors to all except serfs. In the king's court any freeman could find a justice that was cheaper and speedier than that dispensed by the feudal lords. The higher courts of England have sprung from this institution.

Henry also took measures to bring the king's justice directly to the people. He sent members of the royal court on circuit throughout the kingdom. At least once a year a judge was to hold an assembly in each county and try such cases as were brought before him. This system of circuit judges helped to make the law uniform in all parts of England.

The king's court owed much of its popularity to the fact that it employed a better form of trying cases than the old ordeal, oath-swearing, or judicial duel. Henry introduced a method of jury trial which had long been in use in Normandy. When a case came before the king's judges on circuit, they were to select twelve knights, usually neighbors of the parties engaged in the dispute, to make an investigation and give a "verdict" as to which side was in the right. These selected men bore the name of "jurors," because they swore to tell the truth. In Henry's time this method of securing justice applied only to civil cases, that is, to cases affecting land and other forms of property, but later it was extended to persons charged with criminal offenses. Thus arose the "petty jury," an institution which nearly all European peoples have borrowed from England.

Another of Henry's innovations developed into the "grand jury." Before his time, many offenders went unpunished, especially if they were so powerful that no private individual dared accuse them. Henry provided that when the king's justices came to a county court, a number of selected men should be put upon their oath and required to give the names of any persons whom they knew or believed to be guilty of crimes. Such persons were then to be arrested and tried. This "grand jury," as it came to be called, thus had the public duty of making accusations, whether its members felt any personal interest in the matter or not.

The decisions handed down by the legal experts who composed the royal court formed the basis of the English system of jurisprudence. It received the name “Common law” because it grew out of such customs as were common to the realm, as distinguished from those which were merely local. This law, from Henry's II's time, became so widespread and so firmly established that it could not be supplanted by the Roman law followed on the Continent. Carried by English colonists across the seas, it has now come to prevail throughout a great part of the world.

The underlined word “uniform” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

tidy 

orderly 

standardized

informal 

formal 

Correct answer:

standardized

Explanation:

In context, the author is discussing Henry’s efforts to make the law the same throughout England: “Henry also took measures to bring the king's justice directly to the people. He sent members of the royal court on circuit throughout the kingdom. At least once a year a judge was to hold an assembly in each county and try such cases as were brought before him. This system of circuit judges helped to make the law uniform in all parts of England.” So, when the author says that the “system of circuit judges helped to make the law uniform,” he means that it helped to make the law standardized. To provide further help, “orderly” means neat and tidy, and “informal” means friendly or not formal.

Example Question #2 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

Henry II, who ascended the English throne in 1154 C.E., was a grandson of William the Conqueror and the first of the famous Plantagenet family, Henry spent more than half of his reign abroad, looking after his extensive possessions in France, but this fact did not prevent him from giving England good government. Three things in which all Englishmen take special pride—the courts, the jury system, and the Common law—began to take shape during Henry's reign.

Henry, first of all, developed the royal court of justice. This had been, at first, simply the court of the king's chief vassals, corresponding to the local feudal courts. Henry transformed it from an occasional assembly of warlike nobles into a regular body of trained lawyers, and at the same time opened its doors to all except serfs. In the king's court any freeman could find a justice that was cheaper and speedier than that dispensed by the feudal lords. The higher courts of England have sprung from this institution.

Henry also took measures to bring the king's justice directly to the people. He sent members of the royal court on circuit throughout the kingdom. At least once a year a judge was to hold an assembly in each county and try such cases as were brought before him. This system of circuit judges helped to make the law uniform in all parts of England.

The king's court owed much of its popularity to the fact that it employed a better form of trying cases than the old ordeal, oath-swearing, or judicial duel. Henry introduced a method of jury trial which had long been in use in Normandy. When a case came before the king's judges on circuit, they were to select twelve knights, usually neighbors of the parties engaged in the dispute, to make an investigation and give a "verdict" as to which side was in the right. These selected men bore the name of "jurors," because they swore to tell the truth. In Henry's time this method of securing justice applied only to civil cases, that is, to cases affecting land and other forms of property, but later it was extended to persons charged with criminal offenses. Thus arose the "petty jury," an institution which nearly all European peoples have borrowed from England.

Another of Henry's innovations developed into the "grand jury." Before his time, many offenders went unpunished, especially if they were so powerful that no private individual dared accuse them. Henry provided that when the king's justices came to a county court, a number of selected men should be put upon their oath and required to give the names of any persons whom they knew or believed to be guilty of crimes. Such persons were then to be arrested and tried. This "grand jury," as it came to be called, thus had the public duty of making accusations, whether its members felt any personal interest in the matter or not.

The decisions handed down by the legal experts who composed the royal court formed the basis of the English system of jurisprudence. It received the name “Common law” because it grew out of such customs as were common to the realm, as distinguished from those which were merely local. This law, from Henry's II's time, became so widespread and so firmly established that it could not be supplanted by the Roman law followed on the Continent. Carried by English colonists across the seas, it has now come to prevail throughout a great part of the world.

The underlined word “supplanted” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

Obligated 

Replaced 

Exported 

Demanded 

Imported 

Correct answer:

Replaced 

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “This law, from Henry's II's time, became so widespread and so firmly established that it could not be supplanted by the Roman law followed on the Continent. Carried by English colonists across the seas, it has now come to prevail throughout a great part of the world.” Here, the author is saying that Henry’s legal system spread so far and was so firmly set up in those places that it could not be “supplanted” by the common legal systems of the rest of Europe. Of the five answer choices, “replaced” makes the most sense when plugged into that sentence, and it is the correct answer. To provide further help, “obligated” means forced to do or required to do; “demanded” means forcibly asked for something; “imported” means shipped in to a location; and “exported” means shipped out from a location.

Example Question #3 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

Henry II, who ascended the English throne in 1154 C.E., was a grandson of William the Conqueror and the first of the famous Plantagenet family, Henry spent more than half of his reign abroad, looking after his extensive possessions in France, but this fact did not prevent him from giving England good government. Three things in which all Englishmen take special pride—the courts, the jury system, and the Common law—began to take shape during Henry's reign.

Henry, first of all, developed the royal court of justice. This had been, at first, simply the court of the king's chief vassals, corresponding to the local feudal courts. Henry transformed it from an occasional assembly of warlike nobles into a regular body of trained lawyers, and at the same time opened its doors to all except serfs. In the king's court any freeman could find a justice that was cheaper and speedier than that dispensed by the feudal lords. The higher courts of England have sprung from this institution.

Henry also took measures to bring the king's justice directly to the people. He sent members of the royal court on circuit throughout the kingdom. At least once a year a judge was to hold an assembly in each county and try such cases as were brought before him. This system of circuit judges helped to make the law uniform in all parts of England.

The king's court owed much of its popularity to the fact that it employed a better form of trying cases than the old ordeal, oath-swearing, or judicial duel. Henry introduced a method of jury trial which had long been in use in Normandy. When a case came before the king's judges on circuit, they were to select twelve knights, usually neighbors of the parties engaged in the dispute, to make an investigation and give a "verdict" as to which side was in the right. These selected men bore the name of "jurors," because they swore to tell the truth. In Henry's time this method of securing justice applied only to civil cases, that is, to cases affecting land and other forms of property, but later it was extended to persons charged with criminal offenses. Thus arose the "petty jury," an institution which nearly all European peoples have borrowed from England.

Another of Henry's innovations developed into the "grand jury." Before his time, many offenders went unpunished, especially if they were so powerful that no private individual dared accuse them. Henry provided that when the king's justices came to a county court, a number of selected men should be put upon their oath and required to give the names of any persons whom they knew or believed to be guilty of crimes. Such persons were then to be arrested and tried. This "grand jury," as it came to be called, thus had the public duty of making accusations, whether its members felt any personal interest in the matter or not.

The decisions handed down by the legal experts who composed the royal court formed the basis of the English system of jurisprudence. It received the name “Common law” because it grew out of such customs as were common to the realm, as distinguished from those which were merely local. This law, from Henry's II's time, became so widespread and so firmly established that it could not be supplanted by the Roman law followed on the Continent. Carried by English colonists across the seas, it has now come to prevail throughout a great part of the world.

The underlined word “prevail” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

fail 

triumph

mitigate 

secede

acquiesce 

Correct answer:

triumph

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “This law, from Henry's II's time, became so widespread and so firmly established that it could not be supplanted by the Roman law followed on the Continent. Carried by English colonists across the seas, it has now come to prevail throughout a great part of the world.” The author is explaining how English law was carried around the world and set up in many other locations, so it stands to reason that he is saying how it “triumphed” throughout a great part of the world. To provide further help, “mitigate” means reduce a punishment, pain, or other bad thing; “secede” means break away from; and “acquiesce” means give in to.

Example Question #4 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History Hutton Webster (1917)

It was the work of Darius to provide for his dominions a stable government which should preserve what the sword had won. The problem was difficult. The empire was a collection of many people widely different in race, language, customs, and religion. Darius did not attempt to weld the conquered nations into unity. As long as the subjects of Persia paid tribute and furnished troops for the royal army, they were allowed to conduct their own affairs with little interference from the Great King.

The entire empire, excluding Persia proper, was divided into twenty satrapies, or provinces, each one with its civil governor, or satrap. The satraps carried out the laws and collected the heavy tribute annually levied throughout the empire. In most of the provinces there were also military governors who commanded the army and reported directly to the king. This device of entrusting the civil and military functions to separate officials lessened the danger of revolts against the Persian authority. As an additional precaution Darius provided special agents whose business it was to travel from province to province and investigate the conduct of his officials. It became a proverb that "the king has many eyes and many ears."

Darius also established a system of military roads throughout the Persian dominions. The roads were provided at frequent intervals with inns, where postmen stood always in readiness to take up a letter and carry it to the next station. The Royal Road from Susa, the Persian capital, to Sardis in Lydia was over fifteen hundred miles long; but government couriers, using relays of fresh horses, could cover the distance within a week. An old Greek writer declares with admiration that "there is nothing mortal more swift than these messengers."

The underlined word “levied” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

imposed 

dogged 

faded

introduced 

cloistered 

Correct answer:

imposed 

Explanation:

The word is used in the following context: “The satraps carried out the laws and collected the heavy tribute annually levied throughout the empire.” We are told that a heavy tribute is annually “levied,” which suggests that it is collected, raised, or imposed. “Imposed” means forced upon, and since people wouldn't likely pay their takes unless someone made them do so, the takes have to be “levied,” or “imposed.” To provide further help, “dogged” means determined; “faded” means dull or discolored; and “cloistered” means secluded.

Example Question #17 : Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History Hutton Webster (1917)

It was the work of Darius to provide for his dominions a stable government which should preserve what the sword had won. The problem was difficult. The empire was a collection of many people widely different in race, language, customs, and religion. Darius did not attempt to weld the conquered nations into unity. As long as the subjects of Persia paid tribute and furnished troops for the royal army, they were allowed to conduct their own affairs with little interference from the Great King.

The entire empire, excluding Persia proper, was divided into twenty satrapies, or provinces, each one with its civil governor, or satrap. The satraps carried out the laws and collected the heavy tribute annually levied throughout the empire. In most of the provinces there were also military governors who commanded the army and reported directly to the king. This device of entrusting the civil and military functions to separate officials lessened the danger of revolts against the Persian authority. As an additional precaution Darius provided special agents whose business it was to travel from province to province and investigate the conduct of his officials. It became a proverb that "the king has many eyes and many ears."

Darius also established a system of military roads throughout the Persian dominions. The roads were provided at frequent intervals with inns, where postmen stood always in readiness to take up a letter and carry it to the next station. The Royal Road from Susa, the Persian capital, to Sardis in Lydia was over fifteen hundred miles long; but government couriers, using relays of fresh horses, could cover the distance within a week. An old Greek writer declares with admiration that "there is nothing mortal more swift than these messengers."

The underlined word “furnished” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

implied 

meandered 

ensconced

supplied 

commanded 

Correct answer:

supplied 

Explanation:

The word "furnished" is used in the following sentence: “As long as the subjects of Persia paid tribute and furnished troops for the royal army, they were allowed to conduct their own affairs with little interference from the Great King.” We are told that Persia’s subjects had to pay tribute and “furnish” troops to the royal army in order to live outside the king’s interference. As we are told that the army is “royal,” and that the subjects are trying to please the “king," so we can assume that “furnished” means gave to or supplied. To provide further help, “commanded” means led; “ensconced” means settled in; “meandered” means traveled towards a destination indirectly, in a side-to-side fashion, like a river; and “implied” means suggested subtly without directly stating.

Example Question #4 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from "Crossing the Rubicon" in History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott (1902)

There was a little stream in ancient times, in the north of Italy, which flowed eastward into the Adriatic Sea, called the Rubicon. This stream has been immortalized by the transactions which we are now about to describe.

The Rubicon was a very important boundary, and yet it was in itself so small and insignificant that it is now impossible to determine which of two or three little brooks here running into the sea is entitled to its name and renown. In history the Rubicon is a grand, permanent, and conspicuous stream, gazed upon with continued interest by all mankind for nearly twenty centuries; in nature it is an uncertain rivulet, for a long time doubtful and undetermined, and finally lost.

The Rubicon originally derived its importance from the fact that it was the boundary between all that part of the north of Italy which is formed by the valley of the Po, one of the richest and most magnificent countries of the world, and the more southern Roman territories. This country of the Po constituted what was in those days called the hither Gaul, and was a Roman province. It belonged now to Cæsar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul. All south of the Rubicon was territory reserved for the immediate jurisdiction of the city. The Romans, in order to protect themselves from any danger which might threaten their own liberties from the immense armies which they raised for the conquest of foreign nations, had imposed on every side very strict limitations and restrictions in respect to the approach of these armies to the capital. The Rubicon was the limit on this northern side. Generals commanding in Gaul were never to pass it. To cross the Rubicon with an army on the way to Rome was rebellion and treason. Hence the Rubicon became, as it were, the visible sign and symbol of civil restriction to military power.

The underlined word “immortalized” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

deified 

made eternal 

made ceremonial 

made safe

sanctified 

Correct answer:

made eternal 

Explanation:

The word “mortal” means able to die or not a god, whereas “immortal” means eternal, unable to die, or living forever. So to be “immortalized” means to be made eternal. In context, the author says, “This stream has been immortalized by the transactions which we are now about to describe.” As he is telling the story of an important geographical feature, it would make most sense that it had been made eternal, or made worth remembering

Example Question #2 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from "Crossing the Rubicon" in History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott (1902)

There was a little stream in ancient times, in the north of Italy, which flowed eastward into the Adriatic Sea, called the Rubicon. This stream has been immortalized by the transactions which we are now about to describe.

The Rubicon was a very important boundary, and yet it was in itself so small and insignificant that it is now impossible to determine which of two or three little brooks here running into the sea is entitled to its name and renown. In history the Rubicon is a grand, permanent, and conspicuous stream, gazed upon with continued interest by all mankind for nearly twenty centuries; in nature it is an uncertain rivulet, for a long time doubtful and undetermined, and finally lost.

The Rubicon originally derived its importance from the fact that it was the boundary between all that part of the north of Italy which is formed by the valley of the Po, one of the richest and most magnificent countries of the world, and the more southern Roman territories. This country of the Po constituted what was in those days called the hither Gaul, and was a Roman province. It belonged now to Cæsar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul. All south of the Rubicon was territory reserved for the immediate jurisdiction of the city. The Romans, in order to protect themselves from any danger which might threaten their own liberties from the immense armies which they raised for the conquest of foreign nations, had imposed on every side very strict limitations and restrictions in respect to the approach of these armies to the capital. The Rubicon was the limit on this northern side. Generals commanding in Gaul were never to pass it. To cross the Rubicon with an army on the way to Rome was rebellion and treason. Hence the Rubicon became, as it were, the visible sign and symbol of civil restriction to military power.

The underlined word “jurisdiction” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

subordination 

mendacity 

authority 

veracity 

brevity 

Correct answer:

authority 

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “It belonged now to Cæsar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul.” Here it is clear that “jurisdiction” relates to being a commander or being in command, therefore the correct answer is “authority.” To provide further help, “mendacity” is deceit; “veracity” is honesty; “brevity” is briefness; and “subordination” means being made to seem of lesser importance

Example Question #75 : History Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917) 

The prehistoric period is commonly divided, according to the character of the materials used for tools and weapons, into the Age of Stone and the Age of Metals. The one is the age of savagery; the other is the age of barbarism or semi-civilization.

Man's earliest implements were those that lay ready to his hand. A branch from a tree served as a spear; a thick stick in his strong arms became a powerful club. Later, perhaps, came the use of a hard stone such as flint, which could be chipped into the forms of arrowheads, axes, and spear tips. The first stone implements were so rude in shape that it is difficult to believe them of human workmanship. They may have been made several hundred thousand years ago. After countless centuries of slow advance, early people learned to fasten wooden handles to their stone tools and weapons and also to use such materials as jade and granite, which could be ground and polished into a variety of forms. Stone implements continued to be made during the greater part of the prehistoric period. Every region of the world has had a Stone Age.  Its length is reckoned, not by centuries, but by millennia.

The Age of Metals, compared with its predecessor, covers a brief expanse of time. The use of metals came in not much before the dawn of history. The earliest civilized peoples, the Babylonians and Egyptians, when we first become acquainted with them, appear to be passing from the use of stone implements to those of metal. Copper was the first metal in common use. The credit for the invention of copper tools seems to belong to the Egyptians. At a very early date they were working the copper mines on the peninsula of Sinai. The Babylonians probably obtained their copper from the same region. Another source of this metal was the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. The Greek name of the island means "copper." But copper tools were soft and would not keep an edge. Some ancient smith, more ingenious than his fellows, discovered that the addition of a small part of tin to the copper produced a new metal—bronze—harder than the old, yet capable of being molded into a variety of forms. At least as early as 3000 BCE we find bronze taking the place of copper in both Egypt and Babylonia. Somewhat later bronze was introduced into the island of Crete, then along the eastern coast of Greece, and afterwards into other European countries.

The introduction of iron occurred in comparatively recent times. At first it was a scarce, and therefore a very precious, metal. The Egyptians seem to have made little use of iron before 1500 BCE They called it "the metal of heaven," as if they obtained it from meteorites. In the Greek Homeric poems, composed about 900 BCE or later, we find iron considered so valuable that a lump of it is one of the chief prizes at athletic games. In the first five books of the Bible iron is mentioned only thirteen times, though copper and bronze are referred to forty-four times. Iron is more difficult to work than either copper or bronze, but it is vastly superior to those metals in hardness and durability. Hence it gradually displaced them throughout the greater part of the Old World.

The underlined word “acquainted” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

frantic 

astonished 

abreast 

familiar 

fearful 

Correct answer:

familiar 

Explanation:

An “acquaintance” is someone you know or someone you are familiar with, so to become “acquainted” means to become familiar or to get to know. In context, the author says, “The earliest civilized peoples, the Babylonians and Egyptians, when we first become acquainted with them, appear to be passing from the use of stone implements to those of metal.” Here his meaning is that at the earliest point in our familiarity of history with the Egyptians and the Babylonians, they seem to be progressing from using stone tools to metal ones. To provide further information, “abreast” means side by side; “astonished” means surprised; “fearful” means scared; and “frantic” means anxious, panicked, or hysterical

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