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Vocabulary #1: Easy Ways to Learn New Words

Posted by CW64 on August 23, 2010

Vocabulary can be an overwhelming aspect of language to learn, mainly because words are those linguistic elements, along with grammar, that trip one up the most. Still, if one knows how to effectively integrate new words by easily acquiring their meanings, the apprehension one feels can be minimized or eliminated altogether.

There are a few points I have learned along the way that have helped me quickly and easily to increase my knowledge of a particular lexicon (whether English or other language), and these points include both study patterns and exercises.

Two methods serve as the primary means of learning new words. One is, of course, to open the dictionary. After all, this reference provides a language’s vocabulary. Not only does it offer a list of words, but each word’s definition, entomology, phonetic pronunciation, part of speech and collection of synonyms. In this way, one can learn every dimension of a particular word.

One common exercise that writers can perform to enhance lexical knowledge is to open the dictionary every day, choose a small set of unknown words (say five) and write out each word in a series of sentences to become familiar with using it. Merely reading a word in the dictionary and transferring its definition to a sheet of paper won’t guarantee actually learning a word; one has to use a word consistently in order to store it into the long-term memory. This practice works if continuously maintained.

The second way one can enhance vocabulary is to read. Yes, this does expose readers, and writers, to new and innovative ways of speaking and expressing thoughts and ideas. Each author has her or his own particular style. So the more one reads, the more one is introduced to a vaster, more eclectic and more diverse array of words and expressions.

Still, regardless of whether a reader/writer employs the use of a dictionary or reads any form of literature, s/he is bombarded constantly by a tempest of word strings, clauses, phrases, and other references that attempt to convey or expound lexical descriptions. Many people have found this to be tedious and cumbersome trying to learn the meanings of words by reading book loads of recorded data.

Is this necessary?

Well, one will definitely be exposed to ongoing forms of expressions, but this can likewise be an overload that will cause migraine headaches for certain. How aggravating!

There is a more facilitative way to increase vocabulary. This is also why thesauruses are tightly associated with dictionaries. This practice not only allows one to learn any number of new definitions, but also to accumulate groups of synonyms and, in like fashion, learn the simple meanings to those words as well.

What is this process?

Simple: When copying or expressing a word’s definition, a reader/writer should only write a single keyword, such as a common synonym. Writing out convoluted and verbose definitions makes it harder for one to either [clearly] understand or memorize. Remember: less is more; start out basic, then expand and go deeper.

Let’s take the word punctilious. The ‘elaborate’ or drawn out definition is conveyed as thus: “to be extremely observant or attentive to specifics and/or detail.” The surefire way to get that meaning down is to extract one or two keywords from that expression that sums up what the word means. In this case: “observant” and “attentive.” These two words are easier to remember. If one references punctilious in a thesaurus, another word found under it would be meticulous. Since both words are similar in meaning, one would then surmise that both mean “observant” and/or “attentive [to detail].” Now, not only has one learned the meaning of the word punctilious, but also meticulous, and one has formed an association between the two. One has also facilitated the learning of all of this through two simple reference terms: “observant” and “attentive.” Of course, these two words as well are likely to fall in a list of various other synonyms, which is a never-ending process. Readers/writers create and incorporate into their learning blocks ongoing networks of lexical relationships.

Thus: one’s vocabulary grows.

This is the best way for me, and that’s because I make associations and cross-references with only a single word or two. The phrase “One can say more by saying less” suggests this as well since points and meanings are clearer when expressed tersely or succinctly.

I chose the word punctilious here for a reason: When trying to determine the simple definition of a word by reviewing long and quite often complex elaborations that attempt to serve a hermeneutic role in the passage, readers/writers have to be able to discern which lexical or linguistic element(s), if given, offer themselves as keywords that can stand alone as points of meaning for the words they are trying to define. A thesaurus can make this process easy, as only words are given. Yet each synonym in a thesaurus is distinctly different than the other related terms on a given list and depends on its particular context to clarify its uniqueness. One should therefore be careful when employing a thesaurus over a dictionary for that reason.

Putting Theory into practice . . .

Below are two sections. The first provides a group of words and their ‘elaborate’ definitions with their keywords emboldened, followed by their simple definitions. This shows how the process works. The second section offers another list of words for you, the readers (and writers) to define in like fashion. All one has to do is determine the keywords in each ‘elaborate’ definition and establish, in one or two words, each word’s simple meaning.

This will get you to enhance your vocabularies and learn new methods of studying language acquisition. Anyone preparing for the GRE and SAT exams for college will find this particularly useful.

Section I

1) Amalgamate: to combine several elements into a whole

Simple definition: to combine

2) Buttress: stationary structure whose primary purpose is to support a wall

Simple definition: support

3) Dearth: smallness or depletion of quantity or number

Simple definition: small in number

4) Divestiture: taking away of something that was formerly possessed, such as in repossession

Simple definition: repossess

5) Grandiloquence: pompous speech or expression

Simple definition: pompousness;pomposity

6) Impecunious: the state denoting possessing low or non-existent financial resources

Simple definition: poor

7) Magnanimity: the quality of being generously noble in mind and heart, especially in forgiving

Simple definition: generous, noble

8 ) Proliferate: to grow or increase swiftly and abundantly

Simple definition: to grow, increase

9) Quixotic: marked by lofty, romantic or dreamlike ideals

Simple definition: lofty, dreamlike

10) Stultify: to make ineffective, weak, or futile, especially as a result of tedious routine

Simple definition: to make ineffective, hinder

Section II

Below is a list of words accompanied by their ‘elaborate’ definitions. What are their respective simple definitions?

1) Approbation: an expression of excessive approval or praise, especially as a sense of religious or congressional adulation.

2) Centripetal: moving, or tending to move, toward the center of rotation

3) Digression: deviation or departure from the main subject in speech or writing

4) Evanescent: tending to disappear instantaneously like vapor

5) Hackneyed: rendered trite or commonplace by frequent usage

6) Impresario: organizer of public entertainment, especially theatrical

7) Oscillation: the act or state of swinging back and forth with a steady, uninterrupted rhythm, like a pendulum

8 ) Pungent: characterized by a strong, sharp smell or taste, such as bitterness

9) Relegate: to forcibly assign, especially to a lower place or position

10) Vacillate: to waver indecisively between one course of action or opinion and another; to remain undetermined in a stance.

Next: Research and Influence #1: Echoes from the Past . . .


6 Responses to “Vocabulary #1: Easy Ways to Learn New Words”

  1. […] Vocabulary #1: Easy Ways to Learn New Words « Creatiwriter64's Blog […]

  2. You can learn the translation of each word you find. Feng Shui Elements

    • CW64 said

      I appreciate the link. Feng Shui Elements brings additional valuable insight to the discussion, and that’s a great thing. Thanks for sharing. 😉


  3. Superior post. Many thanks!

  4. I try again and again writing about this subject but I fail, I’m just blocked, from where do you get your insperation?

    • CW64 said

      Hey Andy,

      my inspirations come from a variety of sources (books, videos, etc.), but the insights I pass along generally come from experience. As you conduct your own research and continue to work with a subject, you learn the most ideal ways to approach it.

      I also get my inspirations from other people. When I see how they approach certain subjects, I gain insight because I look at things differently than before.

      Sorry if that sounds abstract, hehe.

      Hang in there. Each person is different; what works for one person may not for another.

      Thanks for reading!


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