The Gift of the Magi Vocabulary

Gift of the Magi Vocabulary

Get The Gift of the Magi Unit over 4 blog posts. This first post The Gift of the Magi Vocabulary covers 10 focus words including a list with definitions, synonyms, and sample sentences from text. Also included are practice exercises and a test.

The Gift of the Magi is a heartwarming story of a young married couple who sell their most prized possessions to have money to buy gifts for the other. It makes a wonderful mini-unit to teach during the Christmas season.

What Level is the Story Unit?

Not only is the message a good one, but the book lends itself to covering a number of CCSS skills. The original story measures 6.1-grade equivalent; however, it is a little challenging for sixth graders with its Lexile rating at 940. Due to this, I have also included a simplified version that measures a 4.9-grade equivalent. I made sure that both versions of the story contain the same vocabulary words, making this a perfect unit for differentiated instruction.

Get the printable vocabulary list and practice from this post here.

The Gift of the Magi Vocabulary List

instigate (verb) – to purposely agitate or incite; provoke

synonyms: prompt, initiate, start, activate, originate, bring about, set off

Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.


prosperity (noun) – the state of being wealthy and successful

synonyms:  affluence, opulence, success, richness, fortune

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week.


unassuming (adjective)- without airs or pretensions; modest; reserved

synonyms:  humble, meek, ordinary, demure, simple

Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D.


depreciate  (verb) – to disparage or treat as having little value; belittle

synonyms:  devalue, deflate, reduce, decline, downgrade, lessen, decrease in value

Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts.


falter (verb) – to hesitate because of being confused or not sure

synonyms:  waver, weaken, fade, pause, wane, abate, fumble, fail

Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.


prudence (noun) – good judgment and caution; sensibleness

synonyms:  forethought, carefulness, practicality, wisdom, care, good sense

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason.


sentiment (noun) –  a way of thinking or feeling about something

synonyms:  emotion, response, reaction, attitude, opinion, outlook

It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.


 patent (adjective) –  readily open to notice or observation; evident; obvious

synonyms:  clear, blatant, bold, unobstructed

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.


ecstatic (adjective) in a condition of extreme delight, overpowering emotion, or religious trance; enraptured

synonyms:  overjoyed, thrilled, elated, blissful, rapturous, jubilant, joyous, gleeful

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.


ardent (adjective) – having or showing very strong feelings such as passion, loyalty, or desire

synonyms:  eager, devoted, committed, zealous, enthusiastic

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.


Get the printable vocabulary list and practice including answer keys from this post here.

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The Gift of the Magi Vocabulary Practice

Part 1


1. Write a short definition for each vocabulary word based on how the word is used in the story.

2. Circle six words in the box that are synonyms of instigate.

prompt suppress curb
restrain keep in check set off
start bring about incite
initiate hold back muffle

3. Fill in the word web with synonyms for prosperity.

Word Web for the Word Prosperity

Fill in the blanks with instigate or prosperity.

4. The leader of the movement was the one to ___________________________ the riot.

5. The Great Depression was a time of little ___________________________.

6. As a woman of ___________________________, she has a private jet.

7. You will ___________________________ the workers to strike with this talk of unfairness.

Matching – Write a, b, c, or d in each blank to match the best word to its synonym.

8.   ______ agitate or incite a)   prosperity
9.  ______ having little value b)    depreciate
10.  ______ humble c)   instigate
11.   ______ wealth d)   unassuming

Fill in the blanks using forms of the vocabulary words from the box above.

12. Revolutionaries _____________________________ an uprising.

13. The government ___________________________ the value of the dollar.

14. The lady was so ___________________________ that you’d never guess she was a world-renowned actress.

15. The sultan has great ________________________.

16. The economy ___________________________ after the beginning of World War II.

17. Although he was rich and powerful, he remained an ___________________________ man.

Part 2

18. Fill in the word web with synonyms for prudence.

Word Web for the Word Prudence

19. Circle six words in the box that are synonyms of falter.

revive improve fumble
waver perk up wane
make a comeback weaken recover
pause recuperate hesitate

Fill in the blanks using forms of falter or prudence.

20. She ___________________________ over the words in her speech.

21. He showed ___________________________ in riding his bike only on designated trails.

22. It is ___________________________ not to walk on the frozen pond.

23. The knight said, “I will never ________________________________ in my quest for the Holy Grail.”

24. He became so angry that he was no longer ___________________________.

26. Circle six words in the box that are synonyms of sentiment.

disbelief response indifference
emotion reaction attitude
hate disinterest outlook
antipathy way of thinking concrete

27. Fill in the word web with synonyms for patent.

Word Web for the Word Patent

28. Circle six words in the box that are synonyms of ecstatic.

miserable thrilled blissful
depressed delighted dejected
overjoyed sad despondent
jubilant downhearted gleeful

29. Circle six words in the box that are synonyms of ardent.

eager passionate strong feelings
halfhearted reluctant lackadaisical
unenthusiastic devoted zealous
lukewarm committed indifferent

30. Matching – Write a, b, c, or d in each blank to match the best word to its definition.

______  readily open to notice  a)   prudence
______ a way of thinking or feeling b)    sentiment
______ to hesitate because of being confused c)   falter
 ______ good judgment and caution d)   patent

Vocabulary Review

Write a synonym for each word listed:

1.   instigate __________________
2.   prosperity __________________
3.   unassuming __________________
4.   depreciate __________________
5.   falter __________________
6.   prudence __________________
7.   sentiment __________________
8.   patent __________________
9.   ecstatic __________________
10. ardent __________________

The printable version of this lesson contains answer keys and a vocabulary test.

The Gift of the Magi Blog Posts

The posts will include:


I hope your students will enjoy this unit.

The Gift of the Magi Vocabulary ~ Free Lesson Plans ~ Part I Vocabulary
The vocabulary practice for this unit includes the following:

  • Vocabulary List with 10 words with Parts of Speech, Definitions, and Synonyms
  • Word Cards
  • Practice Book (8 half pages of practice)
  • Vocabulary Test

Click here to download The Gift of the Magi Vocabulary.


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