5 Strategies to Expand Your Vocabulary

5 Strategies to Expand Your Vocabulary

By Saige Brown


Building your vocabulary can oftentimes feel like a daunting task to accomplish. There are so many words in the English language, how in the world are you supposed to know them all? Simply put, there is a better goal to strive for. Instead of worrying about knowing every single English word, it is much more important to expand your knowledge through words you encounter as you go through life. Whether in school, work, or just out in the world, picking up on words you don't know and adding them to ones you do know is one of the best ways to approach vocabulary expansion in a much less intimidating way.


Increasing your knowledge of the English language is not something that can be done over a short period of time. Rather, it is an extended process that you can employ throughout your life to not only better understand the world around you, but also, be able to identify and describe the things you encounter more effectively and efficiently. The following tips are here to set you on the path to a more expansive and substantial vocabulary.

Tips and Tricks

Employing these tips and tricks in your everyday life is a great way to build your vocabulary without worrying about the amount of effort you're putting in. If you turn these into regular habits, they will become like second nature to you and before long you will notice that your understanding of the English language is beginning to expand.

  1. New Word? No Problem!

The first step to a wider understanding of the English language is to take an active role in your own knowledge. Instead of brushing words you don't understand off, you can take the time to look up what they mean. If you can't do so in the moment where you see the word, make a quick note of it whether that be by writing it down or typing it into your phone. Then when you have time later, you can go through the list of words and define them. It can be helpful to keep a list of all the new words you're learning, though already just by looking them up you've added a bit more understanding. The key to this is to not approach the process with a fixed mindset (one closed off to growth and change). Rather, if you approach with a growth mindset (a willingness to change and learn as time progresses) you are more likely to see helpful results. This may seem slow going at first, but when you have the chance to use one of your newly learned words in conversation or writing you will see just how worthwhile this process can be.

  1. Read, Read, Read!

Whether you're a fan of reading or not, this is a crucial step in expanding your vocabulary. This is not to say that you must read incredibly complicated texts filled with tons of jargon you don't understand. That will discourage you from the process of learning. Instead, pick concepts that interest you. List them out if you need. The possibilities are practically endless; you can read about certain music genres you enjoy, animals you find fascinating, current events you're passionate about, and so much more! You're much more likely to enjoy reading if it's about something that you already find entertainment in. Then, you can research what kinds of texts cover the topics you've chosen. If you've chosen a music genre as something to read about, perhaps there is a magazine online that discusses music or artists you enjoy. If you've chosen an animal as something to read about, maybe there is a zoo publishing weekly newsletters about how they care for their creatures. If you've chosen a current event as something to read about, there could be sources online covering the topic. These are just a few examples of the myriad things you could choose to read about. Pick something interesting and fun! Pick something unique to you. Reading doesn't just have to be about complicated novels or poetic excerpts. Of course, those are incredibly viable resources that can hold many interesting topics in and of themselves, so if you choose to pick up a fantasy novel as your preference or a collection of poems that you find interesting, absolutely go for it! The point of this step is to make reading enjoyable, so it doesn't feel like a chore, but rather, a fun experience where you are learning along the way.

  1. Root Words

Another helpful tip is to identify the roots within certain words. Because English is descended from Latin, a lot of English words have Latin roots that can apply to different contexts. Some words have the same roots, and thus, have similar meanings or similar associations. For example:

  • The Latin root aud means “to hear or to listen.” Some English words that stem from that root are audio, auditorium, audience, audition, and audible.
  • The Latin root mal means “bad/with bad intent.” Some English words that stem from that root are malevolent, malcontent, malicious, maligned, and malefactor.
  • The Latin root form means “to shape.” Some English words that stem from that root are conform, reform, inform, transform, and deform.

Familiarizing yourself with common Latin roots can help you to make word associations when you are trying to define certain vocabulary that you don't yet know. If, for example, you knew what malicious meant but you didn't know what malevolent meant, you could use your knowledge of the root mal to make an educated assumption that malevolent has to do with something negative.

  1. Focus on Applicable Words

In your search for new vocabulary, sometimes it can be tempting to learn the most complicated words as a show of your increased understanding. However, while these words are useful, oftentimes they are only useful in extremely specific scenarios. You are more than welcome to take up learning incredibly detailed words if you so choose, however, to properly expand your vocabulary in a useful way, we recommend focusing on words that you can implement semi-regularly. While you might not use the word malicious constantly, it is certainly something that can find its way into your usual vocabulary if you choose to incorporate it. The important thing is to find a balance between words you don't know that can be included in your current vocabulary and words you don't know that are highly specific to certain contexts.


The longest word in the English Dictionary is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, and it references a highly specified lung disease only contracted from inhaling the silica particles released by a volcano. Case and point, this word can only be used to describe a singular thing in a singular situation. So, though it is admittedly very interesting to know, you're better off starting with words that have multiple applications. Experiment with which words you use in your everyday vocabulary! Everyone has different words that they like to use more frequently than others, so who knows? Maybe one person's unneeded vocabulary word is your go-to.

  1. Practice Speaking and Writing

Besides simply defining new words you come across, it is also incredibly helpful to try and practice them not only in your day-to-day life with others but also on your own. This can look like:

  • Repeating the new words to yourself out loud along with their definitions
  • Writing sentences that incorporate the new words
  • Making a habit of speaking them out loud when you encounter new vocabulary words
  • Reading the sentences you create out loud
  • Writing down word associations you notice between new vocabulary words you pick up

To Conclude…

Though expanding your English vocabulary can seem like a daunting task at first, employing the strategies we've suggested can make the endeavor much more digestible. Try to look at the process piece by piece, as sometimes looking at the whole picture can be rather intimidating. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt! It takes time and diligence to build up your word bank, but you'll find that the results are incredibly rewarding and worth it. As you work through more and more vocabulary, your list will grow and so will your understanding.


If you need more help with applying your newly learned vocabulary to your essays or lessons, check out the rest of Pivot’s blog!

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