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How can I find the meaning of a word whose definition goes in circles?

English is not my first language and I'm learning it.

I have good dictionaries (like the 2 volume Oxford OED) but sometimes I wind up in a "going in circles" situation; for example:

  • while looking at the meaning of "to drive" (e.g. a nail) in my dictionary, I get this definition:
    "force by a blow or thrust (into)".
    But I don't exactly know what "to force" means. I look it up:
    to force = "drive violently or against resistance".
    Which leads me back to "drive", so that I still don't know what it means.

  • another example of going in a circle, while looking up "brink":
    brink = the verge of some state, action, event, time etc.
    I don't know what "verge" means so I look it up:
    verge = the brink of something towards which there is progress.

What should I do in these situations?
Someone recommended buying an Advanced learner's dictionary. Is it a good idea? Are there other things to try?

Thank you.


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