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English: How to build up your vocabulary

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English: How to build up your vocabulary

The more words you know, the easier your essays will be to write.

This one’s easy – open a dictionary, start at “aardvark” and work your way through to “zythum”. Job’s done, see ya later.

Oh what? You want some tips that are “realistic” and “not insane”? How about this lot?

Read as much as possible

This is really the key to learning new words and improving your vocabulary. The more you read, and the more you push yourself to read more difficult stuff, the more of these things will stick in your mindtanks. Just be grateful you live in a time where you can read a word like “infundibuliform” in a book and can immediately Google it instead of having to reach for an enormous dictionary (it means “funnel-shaped”).

Write down new and strange words you come across

Pick a page in your notebook, start a new list in your app of choice (like Evernote, say), open a Google Doc and call it “VOCAB”. Then, whenever you stumble across a new, weird word – especially if you like the sound of it – add it to your list. Include a definition, so you know what it means when you come back to the list (“cordiform” means “heart-shaped).

Don’t be scared of misusing them

It’s so, so common for people to read a word, know what it means for years, then say it out loud and get it totally wrong (here’s an example – “hyperbole” is pronounced “hyper-bol-ee”). It’s also common to get the meaning slightly wrong when you’re learning new words. Make some mistakes and learn from them.

Use ‘em or lose ‘em

Maybe right now you’ve learnt that “callipygian” means “having beautifully formed buttocks”, but if you don’t slip it into your writing or speech, that meaning will slip right out of your head. Using words also means you’ll figure out how to use them properly (see the previous point). If you’re confused on this point, ask a teacher. Then get all smug because they’ve never heard of a “cromlech” (that’s a circle of standing stones, like Stonehenge).

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