My vocabulary is the result of a life-long love affair with words. It didn’t hurt that I was raised by a former proofreader for Merriam-Webster and a New York Times crossword puzzler.
I keep a vocabulary notebook. Next to this notebook I keep my dictionary (an old-fashioned printed dictionary, a Merriam-Webster of course). Whenever I encounter a word I don’t know, I put it in my notebook and look it up.
I learn a lot of new words; I probably forget a lot more. I have found the best way to retain new words is to use my new words. Also, I –
Read – This is by far the best way to learn new words. Books, magazines, blogs, websites. If you carry a book around and read while waiting at the doctor or Motor V, keep an index card and pen in your pocket or purse for new words you encounter on the go.
Google – Try Googling WOTD (word of the day) and you’ll be amazed at what happens! You will find a long list of WOTD sites to help you increase your vocabulary. Subscribe to a word-a-day site and get new words sent to your inbox.
Learn in chunks – Dictionary.com has great theme-related decks to study words under subject headings like culinary, performing arts, and sports. There are currently 76 decks of cards under the sports heading, so you can see where this can lead!
Pick up the thesaurus – When you discover a new word, pick up (or click) the thesaurus and find its synonyms, antonyms, etc.
Flex the word muscles – Play words games like Scrabble or do word puzzles or crosswords. Learn Q words – they help a lot in Scrabble! Did you know Qi is an alternative for Chi?
Write sentences – Some time ago I read “carmine” in a book. I wasn’t sure what it meant, so I looked it up. It means vivid red. So I wrote it in a few simple sentences. That lava is carmine. New Mexico sunsets are often carmine. I am angry, and I am seeing carmine!
Use your new words – And look smarter! Use new words in correspondence, emails, Facebook posts, on your blog. Your friends will be impressed.
Here are a few entries in my vocabulary notebook – conciliate, plinth, carapace, fecund, susurration, portending, erudite, and farcical. How many do you know?
“One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.” – Evelyn Waugh
You might also like What is a portmanteau? and What do a madam, a racecar, and a kayak have in common?