Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Expand Your Vocabulary

A friend asked me how best to expand her vocabulary. I told her that she needs to encounter new words and use them. The problem she had, though, was remembering the words long enough to use them.

Humans in general are terrible at knowing things after seeing them once. We have to practice and try over and over again. We need experiences and memories to draw from. That's how we learn. That's how things become natural.

If you want to expand your vocabulary, pick a word you want to use more often. Today's Word of the Day at is "bespeak". Go and look at the word's definition. See the examples used with it. Get a feel for how it can be used. Go and write 20 sentences using it. Write 20 more sentences after each meal. Slip the word into conversations. See if you can do it so naturally that people don't question it.

If you want to learn a word, use it deliberately. There are tens of thousands of words that you could easily go your entire life never needing. But if you would like to learn a few more than you already know, it can be done and it's not terribly difficult. You know lots of them already. What's a few more?


  1. Reading extensively helps, I think. There are times, when I'm writing, that I pull a word seemingly out of thin air. I usually have zero clue what it means, but I have a feeling it means what I need it to. I look it up, and it does! I can only chalk that up to the ridiculous amounts of books that I've always got my nose in.

  2. It is a bizarre and awesome phenomenon to know how to use a word that you can't even define. It happens to me on a weekly basis. is literally one click away while I'm on my browser so I can check up on those words.

    The idea of knowing how to use a word without knowing its meaning is an odd one, though. It reminds me of the Chinese Room argument. I highly recommend looking it up and pondering it for a few minutes.

  3. I looked into it - that's incredibly interesting.