AskOxford.com reports that there are at least a quarter million words in the English language.
The average English speaker only utilizes a small fraction of words but as writers we tend to have an insatiable lust for a larger lexicon.
Step 1: Read
Rule numero uno is and always has been, read. A writer must be a reader, a voracious, spellbound bookworm. That is, after all, where all the good words are! Read different genres and disciplines for each has its own unique vocabulary. Read novels, histories and poems. Read nonfiction, magazines and blogs. Go word hunting through as many literary landscapes as possible.
Step 2: Record
When you encounter a word you are unfamiliar with write it down in a special journal or a piece of paper you use as a book mark. I like to take a blank sheet of computer paper and write down new words while I utilize it to mark my spot. I look up the words daily and re-write them down with a definition.
Step 3: Repeat
After you identify and record the new word say it out loud and if you are so bold, practice it in speech. The more you say it the more you are likely to retain your fledgling word. So flaunt your new words to strangers on the bus.
A thesaurus should be your best friend. Paper is sooo last century, so put thesaurus.com in your navigation bar and use it often. Read through your last few blogs or writings. What words do you use often? Look these up and start swapping fresh words that fit the same meaning. Dictionary.com can also translate over 50 languages so don’t hesitate to start educating yourself on foreign words that cross your path.
To locate the meaning of a word look no further than Google. Google’s Define Operator works by simply typing define: followed by the word in the Google search box. Like define: travel
Should you not know how to pronounce your new 5 dollar word head to howjsay.com, a free online Talking Dictionary of English Pronunciation. Type in any word and a stately gent speaks it back with with pitch perfect pronunciation.
If you are ready to take you love of language to new heights, check out The Free Dictionary.com.Word Games, articles, quotes, a toolbar and a customizable homepage make this one of the ultimate lounge sites for language lovers.
Here are a few words to get you started:
- anathema 1. A detested person or thing. 2. A curse of the Church, excommunicating someone or denouncing a doctrine, or a person or thing so cursed. Her new boyfriend is anathema to me.
- bellicose Eager to fight; warlike. Jimmy and his gang were in a bellicose mood.
- emacity A fondness for buying things. During our trip to Paris, my wife demonstrated her remarkable emacity.
- halcyon Originally referred to a mythical bird said to calm the winds and the waves. The phrase “halcyon days”, referring to an idyllically happy period is occasionally incorrectly turned into “halcyonic days”. Remember those halcyon days at university?
- imbroglio A confused or complicated situation. Jeff tried in vain to explain how he had got himself into this imbroglio.
- laconic (of speech or writing, or a speaker or writer). Brief, concise, terse. Mark was in a strangely laconic mood at dinner.
- operose Involving or displaying a lot of effort. That has to be the most operose way of changing a light bulb.
paucity Smallness of number or quantity. We canceled the embroidery classes because of a paucity of attendants.
- turpitude Baseness, depravity, wickedness. She felt depressed by the turpitude of modern society.
If your knew more than 5 of these then you already flex a meaty vernacular, good work!
What are your vocab boosting tricks? For that matter, what is your favorite word?
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Joshywashington is a Travel Media Ninja from Seattle who enjoys writing, climbing trees and strong coffee.