The use of the word "fulcrum"


Could you please read these lines and tell me why the “fulcrum” means “reputation” here? Also, please explain the bold lines to me.

Thanks in advance,


In Miss Nightingale’s5 own eyes the adventure of the Crimea was a mere incident - scarcely more than a useful stepping-stone in her career. It was the fulcrum with which she hoped to move the world; but it was [color=red]only the fulcrum. For more than a generation she was to sit in secret, working her lever: and her real life began at the very moment when, in popular imagination, it had ended.

I don’t think ‘reputation’ is correct. Did you get the answer from a key?

Hi Tom,

Without more of the broader context, ‘reputation’ doesn’t make much sense. However, if you read more of the context it’s taken from, then ‘reputation’ starts to make a little more sense. Here is a link for you. If you read down to the end of paragraph 3 there, you’ll find this:

So, I suppose whoever wrote that multiple choice question probably had that sort of idea in mind – that her reputation was a force, something that would or could “play a central or essential role in an activity, event, or situation”. You’ll find that definition of ‘fulcrum’ here.

As for the sentence in boldface type, I think you just might understand that better after reading a bit more of the context it came from. If not, just post here again. :slight_smile:

[size=75]“The good opinion of mankind, like the lever of Archimedes, with the given fulcrum, moves the world.” ~ Thomas Jefferson[/size]

Thanks Bev and Amy!

Could you please look at this SAT test? Isn’t it strange that the examiner wants the students to guess the meaning of a word in line 17 when the hint is hidden somewhere in line 58? The answer key is also there at the end of the questions.

Tom … ion-test03

I wouldn’t call it strange, Amy inferred the underlying meaning of “fulcrum” after all, so the task is certainly achievable. Its difficulty level is above average, granted, sinse it requires a deeper understanding of the test.

I agree, APO, but the writer does talk about her determination in paragraph 2 in great length – determination that kept her going. So, fulcrum could also be “mental energy”, couldn’t it?

Let’s wait and see what Bev and Amy have to say about it.



Hi Tom,

Just a couple of observations:

First of all, as Dean (Tort) mentioned, the test taker is expected to make inferences here. That is not unusual on reading comprehension tests. When you have a reading comprehension test, the point of the questions often is not to understand meaning only in an isolated sentence, but rather to understand meaning more globally and then to apply that to something specific within the text. It’s not unusual to have to look at both a specific sentence (or two) as well as the broader context in order to answer a question.

Your point about her ‘mental energy’ is well taken. However, within the specific context of the sentences you originally posted, we find out that ‘the adventure of the Crimea was seen as a useful stepping stone in her career’ followed directly by ‘it was the fulcrum’. Thus, based on the wording of the first two sentences in your quote AND based on the broader context, you could say that the reputation she acquired from that incident was the force or support that opened influential doors to her. She hoped to change the world with her subsequent work, but she needed her reputation to open influential doors in order to accomplish that.

I think you could say that her mental energy was also a sort of fulcrum, but NOT within the specific context of the first two sentences.

That’s my two cents.

From what I see on the site you gave, this was not taken from an official SAT test, but rather from a practice test (or prep course) that someone NOT affiliated with ETS created.