5 Tips On How To Expand Your Vocabulary
Having an impressive vocabulary is one of the best ways to make an impression. When you meet someone and they’re throwing around words that the average person might not have ready on the tip of their tongue, it can make that person appear intelligent, well read, and even mature – whether they actually are or not. But building up a vocabulary that’s sure to impress takes a little bit of work.
There are a few tried and true ways to expand your vocabulary, but curiosity is behind them all. It takes a desire to learn; when you hear a new word, you should want to look it up, to find out how you could use it too. Your search history should be full of inquiries like pendejo meaning or “fusillis origin.” So if you feel you have that curiosity and you’re ready to learn, here are some of the best ways to get started.
1. Look Up Words
This may seem obvious, but it’s just what we mentioned above: one of the best ways to expand your vocabulary is simply to look up new words when you encounter them. Not only does this introduce you to a new word you’ve never heard before, but it also comes with an example of how to use it (assuming the source you’re hearing it from uses it correctly). So whether you’re reading a book, an article, or having a conversation with a peer, take note of any words you don’t know. If it’s in conversation, you may have to make a mental note and write it down after, but if you’re reading, stop what you’re doing and look it up. You’ll understand what you’re reading better and you’ll learn a new word in the process. There’s no excuse not to do it. It’s all about curiosity.
2. Read (Or Read More)
Looking up new words is a great way to expand your vocabulary, but reading is the best way to find those new words to look up. Reading introduces you to new words in two special ways: it gives you context, and you get to see the word.
Being introduced to a word in the context of a sentence can give you an understanding of what it means; you get an idea of its connotations, the tone with which that word is used and the implications that come with it. Just getting a definition doesn’t always teach you how people really use words. For example, the official definition of the word “heinous” is quite serious; when I learned it from a vocabulary lesson, the definition told me it should only be used to describe the most hateful people or events that exist. But by reading, you might see that people use it in contexts that aren’t just describing the worst of the worst; in fact, people often use it quite casually. Definitions change over time. Understanding the meaning of a word from its context in a sentence you read is more useful.
Seeing words on paper can help you learn and understand them, too. You may find that a new word is actually already familiar to you just from its root, like a little learning freebee that’s unique to reading. When you hear a new word in a sentence, you can’t always immediately recognize how it’s spelled, but that spelling is what points you towards its root, which can hand its definition right to you.
3. Sign Up For A Word Of The Day
Whether it’s an app or an email list, there are numerous ways you can have a new word presented to you every day. Nearly every kind of dictionary has an option for a Word of the Day subscription. When you sign up you’ll receive a new word in your inbox each day, along with its definitions, uses, pronunciation, and example sentences for context; there are also numerous apps that will present you with a Word of the Day in a similar manner.
Getting into a Word of the Day habit is an excellent way to expand your vocabulary as it literally does most of the work for you. The words are typically creative, not always words in most peoples’ everyday vocabulary, so you don’t have to go out of your way to find lists of unique words to learn. It also gives you the context and spelling, so you get the benefits that come with learning a new word from seeing it on paper. So when it comes to Word of the Day, your only job is to make a point to use it. And if you start your day with a new word, definition, and pronunciation handed right to you, that’s a pretty easy task.
4. Surprise Yourself With Notes
While reading and receiving Word of the Day emails is pretty low-effort, there are other ways to expand your vocabulary that work but also require work. One of those methods is to place sticky notes or note cards around your home each week with words and definitions, surprising yourself all over the place. That way when you’re doing something like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes, you can look up and read a new word and its definition over and over, grilling it into your brain. Mindless tasks you complete in your home are perfect for learning; you have nothing else to look at and your hands are busy, so why not commit a new word to memory?
5. Play Word Games
Not to sound like your middle school teacher, but learning can be fun, too. Whether it’s on paper or on your smartphone, there are dozens (maybe even hundreds) of games out there that can help you learn new words in ways that are genuinely enjoyable and entertaining. There are smartphone apps that help people study for exams by presenting them with new words in the form of word games, but there are also classic methods like crossword puzzles and playing scrabble. If it’s an app or game that’s specifically intended to help you learn, it’ll likely give you more than just a word, presenting you with uses and definitions, too. If you’re opting to do the daily crossword puzzle every single day, you may have to do a little of the legwork yourself, which brings us back to tip #1 (looking up new and unfamiliar words). Either way, no one ever said learning has to be boring, all repetition and no entertainment. Get some games in the mix and you’ll find yourself with a plethora of new words to use before you know it.
The Bottom Line
As we said in the beginning, expanding your vocabulary is about curiosity. Whether you choose the methods that do the work for you or you opt to give yourself a few extra tasks a week, you still need to put in the work of committing those words to memory and using them in real life. Bringing new words into your vocabulary can be intimidating, we know; it takes a bit of confidence to say a word in a real-life interaction that you’ve never used out loud before. But with curiosity, effort, and just the right games, you could be making stellar first impressions before you know it.