How to Improve Vocabulary - 100 Words You Can Actually Use
Have you ever really stopped to think how important communication skills are to humans? Among all the species on Earth, we’re the only ones with a written language. Actually, it seems we’re the only species to have a formal oral language, too. Other animals are able to communicate with each other through body language, scents, and such, but they can’t speak. Yes, some animals can use a sort of verbal language, but it’s more in the form of grunts, growls, or whistles. Furthermore, animals aren’t judged on their communication skills like we humans are. We’re always being judged on our command of language, whether it’s done so formally or informally. As a retired language arts teacher, I can often tell a lot about a person by the words he or she uses. That includes the person’s written words as well as his speech. I’m not saying everyone is like me here, but I think most people would admit that communication skills are important in a number of life situations. Besides that, some people simply love words, along with their etymology. I’m one of those people. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of words that have become part of our English language.
How To Improve Communication Skills
If you’re hoping to learn how to improve communication skills, you need to understand the importance of vocabulary. Sometimes how you say something is just as important as what is being said. Many words in the English language carry connotation, and choosing just the right words can make a big difference in what you say. I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. The words “stubborn” and “determined” mean practically the same thing, but “stubborn” has a more negative connotation. In fact, describing someone as “determined” can be a good thing.
If you want to be a really good conversationalist or you wish to be a better writer, try to choose words with connotation, along with some interesting verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Sprinkle such words here and there in your speech and in your writing to improve your communication skills. Be careful not to use so many examples that your message appears to be “flowery.” In some cases, you might want to sort of create a picture in the mind of a listener or reader with some sensual imagery – words that appeal to the five senses.
Another way to vastly improve communications skills is to improve your vocabulary with some sort of vocabulary builder. Our language includes so many words that you can find some with the exact meaning you need at any given time. With a larger vocabulary, you’ll have a bigger arsenal of choices. And since half of communicating effectively involves listening or reading, increasing your vocabulary will help from that end, too. How can you understand a speaker or a writer if you don’t know the meanings of the words he uses? I’ve included 100 vocabulary words in this article, by the way.
Many people don’t realize this, but the English language has Germanic roots. European tribes from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands brought their native tongues with them when they invaded what we now know as Britain. The tribes known as the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes had a huge impact on the history of the English language, but that language bears little resemblance to the English we know today. Before the Germanic tribes arrived, Britain had been occupied by Celtic tribes, and we still have some words of Celtic origin. Basically, there were two main types of Celtic language – Gaelic (Goidelic) and Brythonic. Goidelic languages were used in what are now western Scotland and Ireland, while Brythonic was spoken in England. Another type of Celtic language, Pictish, was used in the remainder of Scotland. A few words with Celtic origin are still used in modern English, including basket, plaid, glen, tan, and dun. We got words from Latin, too, as Britain was under Roman control for more than 400 years, up until around the year 410. Some of our Latin-based words include several names of cities in Britain, for example. The Latin word for “camp” was “castra,” and from many of the Roman camps sprang settlements and towns. The evidence can be seen in the names of cities beginning or ending in “chester.” Some other words left behind by the Romans include arbor, belt, wall, coast, criminal, collar, candle, bonus, feud, floral, fort, magistrate, military, army, salary, soldier, wine, and equine.
In a way, it’s hard to believe that Roman occupation didn’t result in more borrowed words from Latin, but you have to remember that for the most part, Latin was used only by the military and by merchants who sold goods to the army. If you take another look at the words I listed, you’ll see that most of them were such words. The inhabitants of Britain continued to speak their Celtic language under Roman rule. Of course, once Christianity and the Catholic Church became powerful in Britain, Latin, along with some Greek, added more words, including many suffixes and prefixes, to the English language.
English also borrowed a few words from what we now often refer to as the “Vikings.” From the ninth century until the Norman Conquest, groups of people from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark came to Britain for various reasons. Some came to loot, some came to trade, and some came to settle and farm. Some of the words the English language borrowed from the Vikings and Old Norse include filly, kick, knife, keel, sister, knot, heathen, egg, crook, fellow, haggle, irk, mistake, oaf, scare, skull, troll, and whisk.
A major change in the English language came about in 1066, with the Norman Conquest. The invaders from France spoke several different French dialects, including Old Norman. Once in Britain, the languages and dialects of the conquerors blended into what we now call Anglo-Norman. It was spoken by the upper class and was used for some law records and trade reports. Latin, however, remained the official language for most official documents. The common people at the time, the Anglo-Saxons, continued to speak Anglo-Saxon (Old English), for the most part. Over the years, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman melded into the language we now refer to as Middle English. In less than 100 years after the Norman Invasion, the English language was considered to be respectable, and in 1258, the government published a document in English. The first English king to use English for addressing Parliament was King Edward III, in 1362. Just a few years later, Anglo-Norman was considered to be a dead language.
How the heck did the vocabulary of the English language get to be so enormous and varied? Because it was a great borrower. In fact, it still is. We English speakers use words from all over the globe. Some have been left intact, while others have been “anglicized.” If you’re an etymology fan, peruse some words in your dictionary and take a look at their origins. You’ll find that we have plenty of formerly foreign words that are now comfortably residing in our everyday language.
English vocabulary includes over one million words, according to a fairly recent study conducted by Google and Harvard. Even more surprising is the number of words that are added to the English language each year. Some linguists cite that number at around 9,000 per year, while others estimate that the language is expanding by some 25,000 new words annually. If that surprises you, just think about how many new inventions pop up every year. For example, your great-grandparents had probably never heard the words “microwave,” “email,” or a “mouse” that wasn’t capable of raiding their pantries. Heck, before the 2000 presidential election, few of us knew the meaning of the word “chad.”
The wonder and expanse of the English language becomes even more apparent when you consider that many words in English have more than one definition, perhaps along with more than one pronunciation. Take the word “bass,” for example. It can be pronounced with a short a sound or with a long a sound, and each pronunciation has a totally different meaning. Even a simple word like “box” can have several different definitions and can be used as a noun or as a verb. Add a y to box and you get an adjective. And speaking of adjectives, what about the comparative and superlative forms? They can be very confusing. Take the word “fast.” The comparative term is made by adding –er, for “faster.” The superlative is made by adding –est, for “fastest.” Seems simple, right? Of course, if you’re an English language speaker, you know that it doesn’t always work that way. We don’t say “bad,” “badder,” and “baddest.”
How To Improve Vocabulary
I’ve always believed that one of the best ways to improve vocabulary is through reading. Of course, that somewhat depends on the material being read. If you spend all your reading time on juvenile comic books, you might not learn many new vocabulary words. And even when some people run across unfamiliar words in their reading, they don’t take the time to look up the definitions. They just skim over the words and hope they weren’t integral to the meaning of the story or the material. Learning how to spell and how to pronounce new vocabulary words is pretty useless if you don’t understand how to use the words.
To increase your vocabulary through reading, keep a notebook and pen with you as you read. When you come across a word that’s not familiar, write it down in the notebook. Use contextual clues to try to understand the meaning of the word, and jot down your estimated definition, too. Also, copy the sentence in which the word appears. Leave several lines between each word , sentence, and assumed definition. When you’re done reading for the time being, look up the definitions to the words in a dictionary. Compare the real definition to yours. How’d you do? Now, read the sentence from the book now that you know the definition of the word, then create a different sentence of your own that uses the new vocabulary word. Every few days, review your vocabulary list and try to use the words in conversation.
If you’re not much of a reader, you can still increase your vocabulary by using similar methods. You could purchase a vocabulary builder, or you can create your own. Don’t choose so many new vocabulary words at once – you’ll get overwhelmed. Unfamiliar words are easy to find – just flip through a dictionary! Once you choose a new word to learn, write it down several times. Make up a few sentences with the word. Say the word aloud several times. Have someone else say the word several times as you listen. Doing all these activities will help create new pathways in your brain that are connected to the word.
I suggest choosing words that you’ll actually be able to use. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to choose complicated medical terms, scientific terms, or very specific terminology. Chances are that you’d never get to use the words, unless you force them into your dialogue. I’ve come up with a hundred vocabulary words that you’ll probably have no problems using. I had some help with this from some fellow Hubbers, by the way. Chances are that you already know and use most of these words, but if you don’t, try adding a few of them to your vocabulary.
100 Vocabulary Words
Abate – to lessen
Acrid – sharp or biting to taste or smell
Aglet – the hard plastic covering on the end of a shoelace
Bellicose – hostile
Bespawl – to spit on
Blandiloquence – flattering or ingratiating speech
Brontide – a distant rumbling noise
Codswallop – gibberish
Corpulent - fat
Churlish - rude
Crepitus –a cracking sound or grating feeling, like in a bad knee joint
Crepuscular – similar to or associated with twilight
Deride – to make fun of
Didactic – intended to teach
Discombobulated – confused or upset
Dearth – scarcity or short supply
Elocution – the art of speaking
Ennui – boredom
Facile – easy
Fanfaron – a braggart and bully
Fell – the “silver skin” found on some cuts of meat
Frenetic – extremely excited
Garrulous – excessive talking, rambling speech
Germane – fitting, significant
Gowk – a foolish person
Hapless – unfortunate, miserable
Hiatus – a break or gap
Hubris – extreme pride
Innocuous – harmless
Intractable – stubborn
Jejune - boring
Jocular – humorous, joking
Kindle – to light or start a fire
Laconic – concise
Loquacious – talkative
Lucid - clear
Macabre – gruesome
Malevolent – evil
Mastication – chewing
Maudlin – overly sentimental
Minion – a favored follower
Mordant – sarcastic, biting
Morose – extremely gloomy
Nadir – lowest point
Nefarious - wicked
Nexus – a connection
Ninnyhammer – an idiot
Noxious - harmful
Obsequious – fawning, dutiful
Obtuse – not sharp
Odoriferous - smelly
Offal – scraps or waste, especially of animal carcasses
Osculation – kissing
Ostensibly – seemingly
Parsimonious - stingy
Pate – the head
Philtrum – the small trench between the upper lip and the nose
Pithy – short and to the point
Plethora – a large amount of something
Prevaricate – to mislead
Prodigious – enormous
Punitive – used as punishment
Quandary – a dilemma
Quell – to calm or soothe
Quiescent – quiet, motionless
Rankle – to irritate or annoy
Rapacious – greedy
Rapscallion – a rascal
Recant – to retract a statement or belief
Recondite – of expert knowledge
Redress – to make right
Riley – angry
Sagacious – wise
Sanguine – healthy, ruddy, optimistic
Schism – division
Spate – a sudden outpouring
Spurious - fake
Stentorian – very loud
Succinct – precise and concise
Sullen – gloomy
Surfeit – overindulgence
Sychophant – a “suckup” or “brown-noser”
Tacit – unspoken but implied
Terse – brief but effective
Timorous – shy, fearful
Turbid – dark, dense, muddy
Turgid – bloated, swollen
Truculent – fierce
Ubiquitous – being everywhere
Unkempt – messy, disorderly
Upbraid – to scold
Vapid – dull
Virulent – destructive, harmful
Vociferous – shrill, noisy
Volatile – easily changeable, especially in a threatening manner
Waggish – funny, witty
Welt – the part of a shoe found between the sole and the upper
Zealot – an extremely committed individual
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