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Vocabulary, Definitions and Spelling: Learning, Memory Techniques, Enrich Your Knowledge and Your Writing

Updated on November 18, 2020
annart profile image

Ann is a retired teacher of literacy and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) to multi-national and dyslexic students, having a DipSpLD


Memory is a funny thing; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but usually once you have ‘rehearsed’ an item of information, that is, gone over it several times or used it in different ways, then that item will slip from short-term to long-term memory and you’ll be able to recall it most of the time. In the very long-term it might take a bit of head scratching but it will come back to you.

Learning to Dance

Stepping, listening, counting, rhythm, music
Stepping, listening, counting, rhythm, music | Source

Example of Mulit-sensory Reinforcement

For example, learning to dance the waltz:

Wonderful for multli-sensory opportunities, any dance involves

  • visual learning - you can see others dance, practise following others’ examples,
  • kinesthetic learning - a repeated beat and a sequence to follow, repeatedly,
  • auditory learning - the music has a rhythm and a melody which supports the movements in order,
  • oral learning - you can count out loud the 1, 2, 3; 1, 2, 3 etc., each step going with a number, 1 back, 2 side, 3 together, and your teacher will repeat instructions,
  • tactile learning - you’re dancing with a partner which offers most help to the woman as she’s guided by the partner; also your feet are moving in the same sequence time after time so you can ‘feel’ if you make a mistake.

A sequence such as a dance is automatically repeated many times, so the information is reinforced more and more each time.

How can we Help Memory?

Memory needs some help. Well, mine does anyway. Not only does it need reinforcing to push it into the ‘long-term’ file but it helps to give it some ‘hooks’, some clues to remind it about each item.

Think of it like recalling someone’s name; you can see the face which brings the memory closer but you can’t quite pull out the name. If you start thinking about where you saw that person or what was happening that day, who else was there, then you are much more likely to have the name pop into your head.

Multi-sensory clues help our memory when it’s not working at its best for us. Indeed, both initial learning and subsequent memory function better if you have visual, tactile, auditory and oral reinforcement, not to mention the sense of smell or some connected movement (kinesthetics).

Remembering Vocabulary

Ok, now let’s have a look at some interesting words. Below are some which have cropped up recently in my work, so I’ll start with them. You will come across many others and these particular words might not be useful for you, however you can apply similar techniques to help you remember any word, its meaning and its spelling and thence enrich your vocabulary and writing.

Words to Conjure Up

Words are a bit like tricks. If you’re good at them you can entertain and amaze with your knowledge. Beware though! Do not fall into the trap of using complicated words when you can use more direct ones as you might find that you lose your reader through grandiosity or sheer lack of understanding.

These are words which you might encounter and therefore need to know. If you then choose to use them in particular circumstances, that’s a good idea - you then need to remember the correct meaning and the correct spelling if using them in writing.

Who is This?

Once upon a time.......
Once upon a time....... | Source


Some of my examples will show vowels (a,e,i,o,u) with a straight line above them, some with a small up-ended curve above them.

A long line indicates a long vowel, as in these words: cāving, lēver, mītred, dōtage, fūme.

A short curve indicates a short vowel, as in these: măp, děntist, thĭnned, cŏttage, nŭtter.

Sometimes, you find vowels ‘fused’ together, like æ and œ; these are called diphthongs (pronounced ‘diff-thongs’) or sliding vowels and are long vowel digraphs (two letters), pronounced variably as ā or ē or even ī. Sorry! That’s English for you. Don’t knife me, I’m only the courier.

Ok, let’s have a look at a few words.

Fillip: a boost, good feelling, spur

fĭllĭp - this can be remembered with ‘flip’; it gives you a good feeling, you do a flip, up and over with joy!

In Britain we have flip-flops to wear in the summer. Others call them thongs or jandals. Laughing gives you a boost, a good feeling, so bearing in mind the flip-flops, here’s a joke to help you remember fillip:

What do you call a Frenchman wearing sandals? Fil-lip Fel-lop! Good, eh? Ok, I can hear you groaning but it might help some remember. (Just in case you didn’t get it, Philippe is a common French name.)

Spelling: Listen to the ‘beats’ (syllables) of the word - fil / lip. There are 2 syllables, split at the middle, double letter. Learn each syllable at a time, then put them together.

Another way of remembering the meaning is to think of ‘fills your lips’, that is, makes you smile.


onomatopoeic: describing a word which sounds like its meaning; for example 'smash!' 'giggle', 'bang'...., usually words associated with sounds, sometimes with movements, like 'wriggling'.

Ironically, the word ‘onomatopœic’ does not give you a clue as to its meaning!

First, say the word to yourself, or aloud if you’re alone or not bothered if people give you sideways looks. How many beats (syllables) does it have?

ŏn-ō-măt-ō-pœ-ĭc = 6 syllables

The word contains a diphthong, or gliding vowel, /o/ and /e/ squashed together, though now both letters are usually written separately. Unusual features such as this, however, can make it easier to remember.

There is nothing to stop you writing it either way; you can show off your knowledge by using the written diphthong! There is usually a function which allows you to type it that way too. Mine is under ‘special characters - Accented Latin’.

Learn the spelling of each syllable at a time, gradually building up to the full six.

on-o ...... mat-o ...... pœ (said as ‘pea’) ..... ic

Write each syllable in a different colour of your choice.

Use capitals for the starting letter of each syllable (just remember not to do that normallly!). Say it out loud as you write it, even say it to a little tune, varying the rhythm, such as;

Caps, Colour and Rhythm

Multi-sensory for Memory
Multi-sensory for Memory | Source

Try it! Might be another case of doing it on your own, unless you want to appear totally whacky - your choice.

Magic, pelagic, Atlantis

Is this Atlantis?
Is this Atlantis? | Source

Pelagic: of, or relating to, the open sea


Pelagic fish are fish inhabiting the upper layers of the open sea.

From this come words like:

  • pelagian: oceanic - marine
  • archipelago: a large group of islands in a sea, for example the Aegean archipelago, containing a large number of scattered islands

How many syllables?

pe-la-gic = 3 syllables

This is spelt just about how it sounds (phonetic), as long as you remember that /g/ in front of /i/ usually has a /j/ sound.

How can we remember the word? Rhymes with ‘magic’ + the mysterious, magical island of Atlantis - ‘magic pelagic Atlantis’

You’re doing well so far. I like to teach words in groups of five, so two more to go.

Rambunctious: noisy and lacking in restraint or discipline


The first two syllables remind us of ‘bull in a china shop’ -type words. To ‘ram’ is to bash into things, ‘bunc’ sounds like bump, or ‘bunk up’ (squash up), so together they imply the word’s meaning.

ram-bunc-tious = 3 syllables

Again this is phonetic for the first two syllables. The ending is a common pattern to learn.

This would be a good one to learn using an illustration. A picture of a ram, head down, ready to smash its way through a pile of wood or china or the like, then underneath put the syllables, spread out, each in a separate colour.

Misanthrope: someone who dislikes people in general

mĭs-ăn-thrōpe = 3 syllables

Ok, what do you think? A picture of a girl, entitled ‘Mis An’,(no, not me, I like people -mostly!), in coloured syllables as usual. A few other stick-people around her (you don’t have to be an artist).

Underneath write ‘thrope’ in big letters. ‘Thrope’ sounds like ‘throw up’ indicating her distaste; the picture should therefore indicate that action upon the others around her! The more outrageous or disgusting your reminder, the more likely you are to remember it, so there are very few boundaries.

Alternatively, you could have ‘Mis Anth’ with a ‘rope’ round someone’s throat!

With these illustrative memory prods, it's always best to make up your own; it involves your own ideas, your own actions, always much more memorable than when done by someone else. Have a go now!

You get the picture.

Just for Fun

Here are a few words which have gone out of use. I think they could do with a revival. So let's have a look at some fun words that come from old English/British, taken from

  • twitter-light: twilight
  • quagswag: the act of shaking to and fro (I love this one!)
  • illecebrous: alluring, enticing, attractive (orig. Latin)
  • hoddypeak: a fool, simpleton, blockhead
  • brannigan: a drinking bout, spree, binge (1920s)
  • perissology: the use of superfluous verbiage (or talking too much!) (orig. Greek)
  • yemeles: careless, heedless, negligent (doesn’t take ‘yeme’, or care)
  • aglifft: frightened, alarmed
  • widdendream: a state of mental disturbance or confusion (Scottish) (another one that appeals to me - I wonder why?!)

How about using some of those in your writing? I dare you!

How Do You Learn?

What sort of learner are you, primarily?

See results

© 2014 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      20 months ago from SW England

      Kierjohnlovers: Thank you for reading and for your comment.


    • profile image


      20 months ago

      you've get it right i also like words complications and manipulations

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Kevin; you seem to love words as much as I do! It is fun playing with them and finding out about wonderful-sounding uncommon ones.

      I'm glad you liked this and thank you so much for your kind comments.

      Keep playing with those words!

      Good to see you today.


    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 

      6 years ago

      That was awesome Ann!! I loved it! I have been studying words and learning their meaning, and origins, for some time. I won a spelling bee in the 7th grade with 'antidisestablishmentarianism'.

      When I was young, my family went to Scotland and I was in a state of widdendream. Or how about: "Widdendream is an antediluvian."

      Enough of that, I have gotten into dictionaries and other sources, such as etymology, because words have interested me for some time.

      I voted this up, shared and pinned it.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      That's an interesting approach, Martie. People devise their own way and that's what always works best for them. I've always told my dyslexic students that.

      Thanks for reading and for your insightful comments. Much appreciated.


    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      I find it hard to remember someone's name, but only until they become my friend.

      There are two ways of remembering - You either get the facts in your mind, or you remember where to find them. The latter seems to be my habit.

      Very interesting topic. Thank you, annart :)

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      dilipchandra12: Glad you've learnt something today. Thanks for reading and commenting and for your votes.


    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 

      6 years ago from India

      Good resourceful information. Now i have learnt some new things again from HP... Just rated thumbs up and awesome.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, teaches. I was worried about it being too boring/complicated so thank you for that reassuring comment!

      Your visit is much appreciated.


    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I am one of those people who learn through all styles. This was a really good post on the techniques for wriiting/memory. YOu made it quite interesting to read.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      RTalloni: thanks for your kind comment. Yes, the young ones love having new words to play with. I might try them with my grandchildren too! Good to see you. Sorry for the delay in responding - internet down!


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Words really are such fun stuff. Thanks for a neat look at enriching knowledge about them. I love twitter-light and intend to teach it to my grandchildren at just the right moment… :)

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you so much, Faith. I always enjoy your visits to my hubs and I'm grateful for your kind words and the votes.

      It was my job to think up all sorts of weird ways to help others remember and I still enjoy it. I've seen it work so that's why I continue to drag up my experience just in case it benefits someone.

      Have a great Wednesday and enjoy the rest of your week!


    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Ann, you are such a brilliant teacher! I love your methods to help our memory, and boy do I need help in that area. I used to call myself wearing a memory path into my brain LOL, and it worked.

      I love learning new words.

      I really loved, " ‘Mis Anth’ with a ‘rope’ round someone’s throat!" So clever!

      Voted up +++ tweeting and pinning

      I do hope the rest of your week is lovely.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Jo, for your lovely comment and the votes.

      I'll be looking out for some of those words!

      Have a great evening!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Yes, learning words is so much easier with a prop or some movements. I used to help with the dyslexic drama students at school and we found that when they had a different persona to concentrate on, they forgot it was the words they were learning and saw it as a whole exercise; amazing how much better they were at learning the lines. It took the emphasis off reading and I've never really been able to explain it!

      I've found that rhythm helps a lot so maybe setting some of the lines to music (their own suggestions) might help - worth a try (obviously dropping the music when the lines are learnt!).

      Thanks for reading and leaving your interesting comment.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Hi Audrey! Glad you enjoyed this. It's great that we have so much to choose from when writing.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Ann another winner! Very educational hub, there is something for everyone here. I love playing with words that are new to me, I hope I'm using them appropriately. Thank you for the out of favour list, I'll see what I can do with them. Voted up all the way.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Fascinating and fun, thank you Ann. I'm thinking about some of my drama students who at the start of rehearsals would struggle and curse and bang their heads against brick walls. So many words to learn, such a long script. Yet the transformation over a number of weeks would be something to behold. And with each phase of the learning process - using props, movement around stage, actions - reinforcement of the script - and more often than not all the words safely stored in that wondrous databank - memory!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      Liked this a bunch! I love words!!!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Hello Iris! Thank you for your kind comment. I think it's great to experiment with words and vary our vocab as much as possible.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      MsDora: Never be afraid to use a word as long as its apt and its meaning is understood. Thanks for your kind comment. Happy writing!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      BruceDPrice: Hello, thank you for your valued comment. No, you didn't miss anything. Whilst being fully aware of the importance of etymology, I was concentrating here on ways of remembering the construction of a word.

      I'm used to teaching dyslexics. Etymology can help tremendously but other mnemonics are also needed to tackle the basics. To have included etymology in this hub would have made it too abstract. That's for another hub altogether.

      Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 

      6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Ann, this is great! Seriously, what a unique and useful article. These ideas are wonderful and I've always loved the word "misanthrope" but I forget to use it-not anymore. :)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Enrich my knowledge, yes. The old English words are so much fun to know, but I'm afraid to use them. Sometimes I look up the meanings when I read them. Will learn from your technique how to remember them. Good hub!

    • BruceDPrice profile image

      Bruce Deitrick Price 

      6 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va.

      Did I miss something? The first thing you do with all these big words is to look at the etymology, which is often fascinating and always mnemonic. Onomatopoeia is Greek. Poeia is the same word basically as poetry, which doe not mean pretty words but to make. The basic idea is effort and craft. Onomato-- is Greek for name so the basic idea is to make a name for something (typically by imitating the sound). Onomatopoeia is such a special word. I don't think any other language has a word for this. All the European languages pretty much took the word as is.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      always exploring: Glad to be of service! Yes, hoddypeak is a great word, isn't it? I love to find new ones and try to use them; watch out for some of those in my writing!

      Good to see you today.


    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Ann, I always learn something new when I read your hubs. Sometimes I feel like a hoddypeak, ( I don'y know why, but I love that word. ) When I look back on some of my first writing on hubpages. Doing rictameter poetry is a great way to learn syllables. ( I can spend hours doing this. ) I love to learn new words, so keep em coming, and thank you for all you do to help we hubbers write better...

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Mary, for the great comment and the votes.

      I have to remind myself sometimes to use a better word and when I came across those fun ones I thought I might throw one or two into my hubs now and then, so watch out!

      I just love the way we can all have fun with words.


    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      We can always use a brush up coupled with new words. There's just so many and using the same ones over and over gets boring. I like misanthrope as there are so many places we can use this word and dazzle our readers!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Glad you liked this DDE. Hope it helps with learning and remembering. Your hubs have grown with your knowledge of language.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Hi Frank. Glad you found this fun. I loved those old words too. Appreciate your visit, as always.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      If I've impressed you, bill, I'm happy! Yes, we have to keep reaching and improving or it's all in vain.

      Thanks, bill. Hope your week's great too.


    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi Ann!

      Your idea of this hub is superb! I learn daily and enjoy improving my skills.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      what a fun hub.. the just for fun section was interesting because I've never even heard of those words.. I mean ever..LOL so I found it amusing... in general.. a worthy hub my friend :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am a willing student, Teacher! Great lessons, fun words, and an underlying message to always reach beyond and never stop learning. Color me impressed by this one, Ann.

      Have a wonderful week ahead.



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