Both nouns refer to the phenomenon or experience of being naturally drawn to a person, thing, or idea. Attraction suggests a desire to get closer to the object, which, for things and ideas, may mean acquiring, adopting, or studying the object. Because talking about an attraction to a person is usually taken to mean a romantic or sexual interest, it’s useful to have affinity at your disposal. Affinity suggests a phenomenon in which a person feels a natural liking toward another person or thing, often based on a recognition of similarity or empathy with them. If a student demonstrates an affinity for lab research, they’re not only interested in it but well-suited to it, and take to it fairly quickly. Someone might possess an affinity with a foreign culture if they have already formed a set of interests and sympathies that are a natural fit.
Both words refer to something that slows, prevents, or stops progress. When we encounter an obstacle, we are at least temporarily stopped in our tracks until we figure out a way to overcome the obstacle. Hindrance refers to something that interferes with progress—slows it down or makes it more difficult—but doesn’t necessarily bring things to a complete halt. Lack of money might be an obstacle to getting a college education. A job that helps pay for your education may become a hindrance to your studies because of the time and energy the job requires. You may have to decide whether the job is, in the common expression, more of a hindrance than a help.
“How was your stay?” you might be asked when leaving a hotel, a hospital, or a city you’ve been visiting for a period of time (but not at the end of your staycation). Like a stay, a sojourn is time spent at a temporary residence, away from home. In part because it’s unusual and French, sojourn is a less utilitarian, more interesting-sounding synonym for a stay and has its own distinct associations. A sojourn often entails travel abroad, and though it can be very short, it is most frequently measured in months, seasons, or years: a summer sojourn in Paris; a twenty-year sojourn in southeast Asia. Sojourn can therefore emphasize living or life in another place, or some particular vocational significance: academic sojourn; spiritual sojourn. It’s also used metaphorically for a life: our sojourn on earth; this earthly sojourn.