THINK The synonymic field with the headword “THINK” having the meaning: “to use one’s power of conception or judgment in regard to any matter or subject which concerns or interests one, is rather extensive.

COGITATE. To “think” is the general term when it goes about mental activity for the sake of forming ideas or reaching conclusions. However, this word does not stress the character of thinking, as the word COGITATE does. COGITATE suggest the atmosphere of profound thinking, of which some result is expected <still COGITATING and looking for an explanation… – Dickens>  <Mrs. Berry had not COGITATED long ere she pronounced distinctly and without a shadow of dubiosity: “My opinion is…” – Meredith>

REFLECT  implies a turning of one’s thoughts back to something that exists, has occurred or needs reexamining. It implies quiet, unhurried, and serious consideration or study <…stood REFLECTING on the circumstances of the preceding hours – Hardy> <All the important things in his life , [he] sometimes REFLECTED, had been determined by chance – Cather> <began to study its organization, REFLECT on its psychology…and ponder the results – Shirer>

REASON is mainly about consecutive logical thought, beginning with a postulate, a premise, or evidence and proceeding to a conclusion or judgment <no man as near death as I was feeling, could, I REASONED, be absorbed by such trifles – Lucas>

SPECULATE is similar to REASON but stresses the uncertainty of argumentation or the incompleteness of the data and therefore usually imputes a hypothetical or theoretical character to the conclusion reached <the two women SPECULATED with deep anxiety on whether or not little Pamela had died of exposure – Cheever><…philosophers have SPECULATED on the question of God for thousands of years>

DELIBERATE suggests slow and careful reasoning and fair consideration of various aspects in an attempt to reach a conclusion often on a matter of public interest <the future relations of the two countries could not be DELIBERATED on with a hope of settlement – Froude>

PONDER has the implication of weighing and suggests consideration of a problem from all angles in order that nothing important will escape one. In this respect the word. The difference between PONDER on the one hand, and WEIGH and CONSIDER on the other, is that the last two words imply fixing the mind on something in order to increase one’s knowledge or understanding of it or to solve a problem involved in it. PONDER does not contain that element of “increasing.” <the great master was wont…to…spend the day PONDERING the subjects of his brush by the side of running streams – Binyon>

MEDITATE adds to PONDER the idea of focusing one’s thought for the purpose of understanding the thing in all its aspects.

MUSE comes close to MEDITATE in implying focused attention  but it suggests a less intellectual aim; often it implies absorption and a languid turning over of a topic, as if in a dream, a fancy, or a remembrance <let him read a certain passage of full poesy  or distilled prose , and let him wander with it , and MUSE upon it … and dream upon it – Keats> <still a pleasant mystery; enough to muse over on a dull afternoon – Davis>

RUMINATE implies a going over the same problem (object of meditation) again and again. But it does not carry as strong a suggestion of WEIGHING as PONDER, or concentrated attention as MEDITATE, or of absorption as MUSE, and it more often implies such processes as REASONING and SPECULATION <I sit at home and RUMINATE on qualities of certain little books like this one,… which I can read again and again – L.P.Smith> <forty years on RUMINATING on life, of glimpsing it in its simplest forms through microscopes – Kaempffert>

CONSIDER is an applying of one’s mind but sometimes it also carries such a restricting implication as that of a definite point of view <in the last paragraphs we have considered science as a steadily advancing army of ascertained facts – Inge> or as that of thinking over <the publishers told him they would CONSIDER his book> < marriage is an action too freely practiced and too seldom adequately CONSIDERED>

CONTEMPLATE implies, like MEDITATE, the focusing of one’s attention upon a thing and a close dwelling upon it; the term, however, does not always carry a clear implication of the purpose or result. When the object on which the mind rests is a plan, a project, or an imaginative conception, CONTEMPLATE usually suggests its formulation in detail or its enjoyment as envisioned <Herbert bent and kissed her cheek. The moment and the act he had CONTEMPLATED for weeks with a thrill of pleasure – Hardy> When the object contemplated lies outside the mind, the term suggests an attempt to increase one’s knowledge and comprehension of it through minute scrutiny and meditation <while science CONTEMPLATES a world of facts without values, religion CONTEMPLATES values apart from facts – Inge> <…nature is beautiful only to the mind which is prepared to apprehend her beauty , to CONTEMPLATE her for her own sake…– Alexander>

WEIGH implies evaluation of something and especially of one thing in respect to another, it suggests an attempt to get at the truth by balancing <to WEIGH evidence> <observations are not to be numbered, they are to be WEIGHED – Ellis>

EXCOGITATE implies the application of one’s mind to something so that one may find the solution of the problem involved  <EXCOGITATE a plan whereby poverty may be relieved without unduly burdening the taxpayers><Scientist must stop to observe and start to EXCOGITATE>

MULL. I didn’t find in dictionaries any special features that distinguish the word MULL (OVER) from the words RUMINATE, PONDER, CONSIDER. It looks like the word is more colloquial than these three, and more recent in origin (the first quarter of the 19th century). Here are some contemporary examples from the Web: < A group of friends gathers to MULL over what to do with a day off><Clearly, the attorney has already begun to MULL his options> <Residents MULL it over in daily conversations: whose apartment was robbed last night?>


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