Vocabulary and Types of Vocabulary

If you take a trip down the memory lane, you would remember how English lessons were never complete without reading, comprehension, and dictation sessions. And most of these sessions were thoughtfully designed to build a strong vocabulary. A strong vocabulary is an asset, a skill that stays with you all through your life. However, before we go any further, let us first understand what vocabulary means and types of vocabulary.

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You can define vocabulary as “a set of words used in a specific language”. It comprises of all the words that you understand when you read or write something or listen to someone speak. That is, our vocabulary consists of all the words that we understand, feel, or comprehend in the correct context. Hence, the more effort you put in to understand the meaning of a word, the stronger your vocabulary grows.

types of vocabulary

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Importance of a Rich Vocabulary

Vocabulary builds over time. It develops with reading and with specific instruction. A good vocabulary helps you to develop your comprehension skills and master a language. When you take the effort to understand unfamiliar words, you actually try to understand the entire context in which the word is used. And this entire process helps you to understand what the writer or speaker is trying to say.

In addition to comprehension skills, a good vocabulary also helps you to articulate your ideas and thoughts in an effective way. With a rich vocabulary, you will not sound repetitive and boring. You will be able to choose the appropriate words and express your ideas with maximum impact. At the same time, you will also be able to receive and process information in a better way. Your grasping ability increases with a good vocabulary.

Another advantage of a good vocabulary is that you will be able to create a good impression. When you articulate well, the other person will naturally be more inclined to listen and exchange ideas with you.

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Types of Vocabulary

Developing vocabulary is a timeless process. As we age, we keep picking up new words. Vocabulary is a skill that gets better over time. However, you must be careful of what words you learn. You can categorize vocabulary in several ways.

Vocabulary—Basic, High-Frequency, Subject-Related

To begin with, you can categorize vocabulary depending on how you use it. A rich vocabulary consists of basic vocabulary, high-frequency vocabulary, and subject-related vocabulary. A word’s definition, use, context, and complexity determine its category.

Ideally, you should pick up words that will help you in your studies. You could also develop your vocabulary with words that you would come across regularly while reading books or while listening to people. That is, you should build your vocabulary with words that you would use frequently.

Finally, you should definitely build your vocabulary depending on your career specialization or field of interest. For instance, if your specialization is computer electronics, you should familiarize yourself with technical terms associated with computers.

Vocabulary—Expressive and Receptive

You can also categorize vocabulary into two broad categories—expressive and receptive vocabulary. Expressive vocabulary refers to the words that we use to express our thoughts and ideas. That is all the words that we use for “speaking” and “writing” fall under the expressive category.

Speaking vocabulary comprises of the words that you would generally use in your speech. Research proves that on average, people have about 10,000 words in their speaking vocabulary. Writing vocabulary refers to the words that you use while writing your ideas or thoughts. Your comfort with spelling words usually determines your writing vocabulary.

Receptive vocabulary, on the other hand, refers to all the words that you understand while “reading” books or “listening” to someone speak. In other words, all the words that you process while receiving information fall under receptive vocabulary. Listening vocabulary includes all the words that you hear and understand.

On average, adults can understand and process around 50,000 words. If you notice, listening vocabulary is vast vis-a-vis speaking vocabulary. Reading vocabulary, as the word suggests, refers to all the words that you understand when you read. As mentioned earlier, the more you read, the more you develop your vocabulary.

Vocabulary—Oral and Written

Finally, you can also classify vocabulary into the oral and written vocabulary. Oral vocabulary consists of all the words you use while speaking and all the words you understand while listening. Written vocabulary comprises of all the words that you understand while reading and all the words that you use while writing what you want to express.

Building Vocabulary

Building a rich vocabulary is an experience in itself. Not only will it help you in your professional life, but it will also open your mind to new worlds. As you keep learning new words, you will realize how it creates an interest to learn and explore more. You will also notice how you can use words in a different context, thereby improving your communication skills.

One of the best ways of building a strong vocabulary is to explore the variations of a single word. That is, when you come across a new word, you can try looking up its antonym and synonym, or its connotation, or check if it is an idiom, and so on.

Antonyms are opposite words whereas synonyms are words that have the same meaning. Idioms are a group of words that have a meaning different from their literal meaning. Connotation refers to the feeling or idea the word generates. You can also check the etymology of a word, that is, where the word originates from.

Question on Types of Vocabulary

Q. List the tips to build a strong vocabulary


To begin with, familiarize yourself with the context. When you come across a new word, you can infer its meaning to a certain extent by understanding the context in which it is used. Do not shy away from new words and contexts. Explore the word as much as you can by looking up its antonyms, synonyms, and definitions.

Reading is the best way to improve your vocabulary. In addition, it opens up new worlds and dimensions. You can start with magazines and short stories. You can also pick up articles in your field of interest. As you come across new words, circle the words and refer to the dictionary to check their meanings. Many a time, a word has different meanings. So, take your time to check how you can use the word in different contexts.

As you start exploring new words, write them down in a book. Make an effort to use the words in your conversations or articles. Take time to actively learn new words. You could also fix some goals to learn new words on a daily or weekly basis. As mentioned earlier, checking the etymology or origins of the word also helps in building vocabulary.

Finally, invest in some word board games and puzzles. Games and puzzles are one of the most effective ways of learning anything new. Oral word-building games also help in learning new words.

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