When reading, do you stop to look up a word you don't know?

I just starting reading JK Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” and I’m surprised at the number of words I’m encountering of which I don’t know the definition. Most of the words are familiar, in that I’ve seen them before, and easily defined through context. But it’s enough that I’m now keeping my Webster’s Dictionary app open on my iPhone while I read!

Do you always/never/sometimes look up a word you don’t know while reading casually?

Sidenote: I figure I’m coming across all of these “difficult” words because the book is written in British English and I’m used to American English. Has anyone else read the book and encountered the same situation? (No spoilers, please!)

Now that I use a Kindle, I often do.

Especially useful for reading anything by Stephen R. Donaldson! I’ve got a big vocabulary, but he seems to go out of his way to come up with little-used adjectives.

On my Sony e-reader: I’m constantly looking things up. Definitions, etymologies, historic figures – anything that might be in the included dictionaries. I also bookmark pages so that I can look things up later, although I rarely follow through with that (maybe 5-10% of the time). Too bad a Wikipedia search requires me to be connected to wi-fi…

No e-readers, I’m usually reading a book on the couch downstairs in the living room. Yes, I do go upstairs for the dictionary to look something up if I don’t understand it.

I generally do. But first I read through the entire sentence and remove the offending word. If the sentence makes perfect sense without it and fits the context of the paragraph/idea being expressed, I just ignore it and go on with my life.

Fiction: just about never. Only if the word is so unfamiliar that it jars me out of the passage. I’m generally running on automatic pilot while I’m reading fiction and my brain glosses over words I don’t know.

Nonfiction: all the time.

Not usually. I can figure out the definition from context.

I do the above, and at times I’ll look up words I think or thought I knew the meaning of, just to reaffirm positive word usage. I think it’s good practice and helps to flesh out cases of context, depending on the situation. It can be a very valuable way to learn or continue learning, especially if it’s an uncommon word, not often used in casual vocabulary.

Depending on how you’re doing the reading, it’s even easier, these days. When reading on my tablet, for example, I can long press a word to see the definition, and proceed from there (saving the word and/or sentence). I’ve always considered familiarity with words, new or otherwise, to be part of the joy in reading.

In fiction, I may make a note so that I can look it up later. Now I’m going to have to read Casual Vacancy.

I look stuff up when I’m reading on my Kindle all the time. It was particularly useful recently in re-reading the Patrick O’Brien’s sea stories. It’s amazing how many old sailing terms are still apparently in use.

I will also Google words and references on our iPad if I happen to have it nearby and am reading a regular book.

I never used to before. But now that I have an ereader I do it all the time. When I’m reading on my Nexus it’s as simple as touching the word.

I’m stealing my husband’s Kindle since I got him a Kindle Fire for Xmas, so I’m happy to hear that there’s a way to look up words directly from the text! (I’m also reading Les Miserables right now, which is probably free on Kindle, so that will surely help me with that one.)

But since this book is a big ol’ hardback, I’ll have to keep using my dictionary app for now.

@Yllaria, I’m really enjoying the book so far. I hope you get a chance to read it too!

Same. Mainly because I read fiction in books (so I can’t double click) and it usually makes sense in the context anyway. Sometimes I remember a word to look up later, but I never stop reading to go and look up a word. I might give my SO a shout to see if he knows though…

Reading articles etc I usually do on my laptop or phone, so I can double click the word. Sometimes even here on the SDMB, cos of all you smartie pants :slight_smile:

ETA: smaje1, could you give some examples of the difficulty with the British words? I’m just curious, because it always surprises me the which ones Americans do and don’t know.

I had an English teacher that once told me that if a person is reading along and they come by a word that he doesn’t know, then the attention span in the next couple paragraphs will be gone.

Whether the teacher was correct or not, it’s now my default mode. If I’m reading and come across a word I don’t know, his words are the first thing to pop into my mind. Now that I have a Kindle, I always look up the word. In fact, I just started Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and the term “Quonset hut” tripped me up.

In the old days, if I couldn’t figure out via context, I usually just let it go.

Now, reading ebooks on my iPhone, I just double-tap to select and let my Dictionary app do the work.

That’s an interesting idea.

I’d more assume that if someone could understand the general idea of a sentence or paragraph, that they’d also stand a fair chance at deciphering a words meaning (obvious exception being an unfamiliar subject). I’d hate to think an overall idea could be lost, just based on a word or so (unless it was the point of the subject).

I never did, but now my Kindle Fire makes it so easy that I do.

@Gracer, I can’t name you any off the top of my head, but I’ll try to list some down when I read tonight. As I said, I can recognize most of the words and figure them out through context – they’re just not words I typically come across in books.

On the other hand, there are some British-y things that I just don’t “get” – like references to someone’s grade/year in school (“first year” versus “freshman” or the like). Perhaps I’ll just have to Google those things!

I always look things up, rather than take a chance that I’ll remember a word an misuse it in the future.

The last word I looked up was “amaranthine,” from the music of Enya. Has anyone out there ever come across this word in any other context?