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Seven Easy Ways to Improve Your Vocabulary Without Even Trying

Whether you want to improve your vocabulary for success on college entrance exams or to better position yourself in your career, you can find painless ways to learn and use new words without changing your current lifestyle or investing hours and hours toward study.

Whether you want to improve your vocabulary for success on college entrance exams or to better position yourself in your career, you can find painless ways to learn and use new words without changing your current lifestyle or investing hours and hours toward study.

Read the New York Times or Wall Street Journal

Both of these newspapers are written for a higher education level than most newspapers. You’ll still get the same news stories, but you’ll be exposed to less common words and will get used to reading them and hearing them.

Play the Free Rice game online

This is a really fun site that donates 20 grains of rice for every word meaning you guess correctly. It’s a great way to kill time. Not only do you learn something, you get to help others at the same time.

Look up words you don’t know in a dictionary

There’s no better way to learn new words than to look up the meaning in a dictionary. You can use a book style or an online dictionary. In Google, if you type “define:word” without the quotes, you’ll get a list of meanings.

Read quality literature for leisure instead of best-sellers

If you’ve never read great literature, you don’t know what you’re missing. Make a visit to your neighborhood library and ask a reference librarian for help picking out classic literature. Check out E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End” or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.”

Socialize with people who are smarter than you or who have advanced degrees

You don’t need to completely abandon your neighborhood bar locals, but one of the easiest ways to increase your vocabulary is to hang out with people who have great vocabularies and have spent many years in college. Those people you know who have advanced degrees in the humanities especially will have no doubt written countless essays, research papers and theses which all require a powerful arsenal of words and the use of precise language. It’s no doubt that their vocabulary in academia spills over into their everyday lives.

Learn a few Greek and Latin word parts (roots, prefixes and suffixes)

This is a quick and painless way to decipher the meaning or at least get close enough to the meaning of new words you come across. A large portion of the words we use are comprised of Greek and Latin parts. Pick up a book or search online for lists of roots, prefixes and suffixes. Learn a few basics and you’ll be set for life.

Use a new word as soon as possible

Once you hear a new word, then look it up or figure out its meaning, in order to make this a part of your vocabulary you must begin using it. Think about the word as you’re looking it up and dissecting the parts. How could you use the word at work? Where would it be used most appropriately? Try formulating a few sentences with the word. The next time you’re in a conversation with someone, try using the new word. By using the words as soon as you can, you’ll make them stick.

Improving your vocabulary you help you in your career and will also help if you will be taking college entrance exams. Whatever your purpose, you can expand your vocabulary painlessly and without even realizing you’re doing it.

Anne Mathews is pursuing a graduate degree full-time and teaches part-time at a major U.S. university. If you are interested in writing professionally for this site and others, Ms. Mathews would appreciate the referral bonus:   

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12 Responses to “Seven Easy Ways to Improve Your Vocabulary Without Even Trying”
  • Dorian
    July 7th, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Yo! My name is Dorian and I’m reaching out to world-conscious blogs. I noticed that you blogged about free rice, and I’m working with a small startup called Avanoo that is developing a similar concept. By going to our site ( and putting one of many badges on your blog, every time someone clicks that badge, a dollar is donated by a corporate sponsor to the non-profit!

    We’re still in beta, but we wanted to spread the word as much as possible. If you can help us show others how, together, bloggers and web users can raise funds and awareness for good causes by using our collective power, I’d really appreciate it. Maybe you’ll even blog about us!

    Thanks for your time,

    Dorian Bertsch
    Outreach Coordinator
    Avanoo, Inc.

    PS If you would like to visit our website please visit

  • Juliane Elliott
    July 16th, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Some good ideas here and I appreciate your message. Thank you.
    P.S. Everyone is a critic, but congrats on making the Top Ten of Triond!

  • Kiefer
    July 17th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    I think at least five of those required a good deal of trying so I’m not sure how much the title can apply.

    However, very good list. Good job.

  • India
    July 17th, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    I take latin in school so I know some greek and latin words, roots, prefixes and suffixes. Also, in english i had to learn about 500 greek and latin stems such as intra (within), cap (head) and cyan (blue). They really help when trying to decipher what words that you don’t know mean.

  • R J Evans
    July 17th, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Don’t let peope like “Dave” drag you down. You have more talent in your little finger than he does in his whole body (which I suspect lacks reproductive organs!). Go! Nice one!


  • L F Calland
    July 18th, 2008 at 6:56 am

    I certainly enjoyed the article, but I agree that you could have given us the links. Anyway… congratulations on the article and in reaching the top ten.

  • Kristin
    July 18th, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Many of those suggestions sound utterly rediculous. Sorry, maybe you should take your own advice :)

  • Mike
    July 19th, 2008 at 2:36 am

    I think what some of these commenters are really saying is that they don’t want to better themselves; they’re happy with their ignorance. And so they complain about the lack of links, or claim that the suggestions are ridiculous. You just can’t convince some people that more knowledge is better than less.

  • vardananda
    July 19th, 2008 at 5:31 am


    I quote Kiefer from above:

    “I think at least five of those required a good deal of trying so I’m not sure how much the title can apply.”

    I am afraid he is right! However you have succeeded by virtue of your title to draw more crowd to read your article though it does not contain anything substantially new.

  • Andromeda
    July 20th, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Since everyone is “so smart”, I am going to check out the published works of the critics here. It will be interesting to see how smart and organized their articles undoubtedly are since ill words of critisism flow off their tongues so easily. I appreciated this article’s message as not needing to sit down with grammar books or take a college-level English course. These are very good ideas to increase daily vocabulary and to use this new vocabulary properly.
    It is unnerving to me when a self-proclaimed “intellectual” using pretentious vocabulary inappropriately. I have a feeling some of the critics here do that.
    The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily cost double or triple the money of a daily local newspaper. Ignorant people feel they are getting the same news and the same exposure. As Anne explained, buy the expensive papers, folks. You will be speaking eloquently and properly.


  • anu75
    July 25th, 2008 at 4:30 am

    I have read your this article many times. I follow the instructions you refer in your article to improve my vocabulary,and this really works.

  • tonisan60
    August 5th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Your advices are the best, not only if you are an English speaker, that rules applies for all languages on eatrh, that is the way I had imprved my Italian and my Spanish, now I am looking for do the same with my Englisg, in order to write poetry in English that will not be translations of my Spanish and Italian work, for now, i had only written less than 5 poems in English, all very short, the most of my English poetry is a translation (made by nyself) of the ones I had written in Spanish.
    Thank you for sharing, a very well done article, this one. My claps for your work

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