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3 simple ways to boost your vocabulary

Updated: Jul 11, 2019

Whether you are 8 or 88, we could all do with more vocabulary. Where would we be without the beauty of the words chatoyant (like a cat's eye), halcyon (happy and carefree) or insouciance (blithe nonchalance)? In fact, according to The Economist, by the time we are 8 most children know about 10,000 words, rising to anywhere between 25,000 and 35,000 words as an adult. Since the Oxford Dictionary has around 170,000 words in the dictionary that are in current use and around 47,000 obsolete words, we all have room to learn a few more words.

On the other hand, where would great (and terrible) leaders, past and present, be without words to coax, persuade and manipulate? It is their words that have allowed them to gain that place of power. Words give us the opportunity to persuade someone to give us a job, to buy from us, to think the way that we think.

So how do you get this power? Where do you get the ammunition? Here are 3 tips to elevate your vocabulary:

1) Read more and read appropriately. This is really the simplest way to soak up new words. A child who reads for 20 minutes every day is going to be exposed to 1.8million new words a year. Clearly, this child is BOUND to be more vocabulary rich than the child that reads less or reads nothing. Whilst, this is not a surefire way to understand words, most students when reading books that are appropriate to the age/ ability of the student will pick up words by osmosis and start to understand them and even use them. If books are so difficult that understanding is completely impeded, then words will not be understood as easily as the child will not be able to understand the word in the context of the sentence or piece that it is written in. We need to understand 95% of the words on a page to really understand a text and so the books that we read should be just slightly challenging in order to present us with words we are not familiar with and/ or words that we are only starting to become familiar with. So whether, it is you or your child that needs a better vocabulary, read, read often and read challenging texts.

2) Become curious about words. If you hear a word that you haven't heard, don't just dismiss it: find out what it means and find out where it comes from. You can do this using a dictionary and looking at the etymology of the words. For example, a look at the word "etymology" would tell you that it means the study of the origin of words and that the etymology of the word etymology (you still with me?) is where etym refers to real or true (meaning) and ology refers to a field of study. In fact etymology does give us a truer meaning of words as, when we learn what a word really means and its original meaning, we are given a deeper knowledge of the words.

3) Use them!

It's always somewhat frightening when you are faced with a new word to use it in public. What if you get it wrong? Will you sound stupid? However, real, deep knowledge of a word is the knowledge you have of a word when you not only recognise it and know its meaning, but that you are able to use a word confidently yourself in your everyday speech. So research the word, check its meaning and have a go at using it with your friends!

Part of the Word Academy Workshop is about improving vocabulary - we have a word of the week on a Wednesday so that students can practice using new words. Join up and find out more information at

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