One thing which most of us want is a good and big vocabulary. Knowing and using lots of words can help you get noticed and create a good impression on others. In this blog, let me share with you how you can improve your vocabulary.

Let me tell you, there are so many words in English. More than a million total words which 170000 words in current use and approx 30000 words used by each individual person. In short, the number of words a person can learn is virtually endless. So, the number of words a person can know is nothing compared to the words a person does not know.

While working with students and professionals, I have come across a few things which have worked for me and my students also, as far as improving the vocabulary is concerned. Before I should dive into the activities one should follow to improve vocabulary, let me tell you the different types of vocabulary.

Types of vocabulary

In general, there are two types of vocabulary:

  • Passive vocabulary – These are the words that you know and can recognize when you read or listen to but are not comfortable with while using yourself.
  • Active vocabulary – These are the words that are comfortable to use when you speak or write. This is what people are interested to improve as they want to work on their usable words.

But there are two other types of vocabulary

  • Etymological vocabulary –  These are the words whose origin is known by you and you can explain them. Like the word ‘puer’ that means ‘boy’.
  • Catachrestic vocabulary – These are words that we might misunderstand like ‘reticent’ or ‘reluctant’.
The vocabulary can be of any type and the activities mentioned below will support and strengthen the same.
You can join training with a coach to get to know more about vocabulary enhancement. They will help you learn the process and learn the strategies.

But, if you want to do it by yourself and too alone, then you can check out the activities shared below:

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Activity 1 – Read with a dictionary

This is one activity that will help you to work on passive and catachrestic vocabulary. This is one activity that I used to follow when I was studying and thanks to my English teacher, who helped to continue with this habit.

Flashcards are also helpful, but keeping them and managing them is a bit difficult, so using a pocket dictionary was easy. I used to carry it all the time and used to look into it when I encountered a word, I do not know. This was one habit that I continued following for a long time.

The more you do, the more you learn. This habit also helped me to pair new words that I encountered for the first time while reading.

Now, because of the internet, we can use an online dictionary app also, but it is not better than pocket dictionaries.

MY dictionary MY


Activity 2- Building your personal dictionary

This is an activity that is interesting and focuses primarily on active vocabulary. This is one thing that I started developing while working on my vocabulary. This is one thing that I still follow. The only difference is now I am having this as a google doc. Earlier, I used to do it in a notebook.

At this time I have more than 1000 words, that are part of my vocabulary enhancement. These are the words that I study, learn, love, use, forget and remember. Let me tell you, this is what I am making my students also follow and this is really helping them. A sample of such a document is added for your reference.

The way I create a new entry in this document is as follows:

  • When I encounter a new word that I do not know, then I add that to my document.
  • I check out the word in the Oxford dictionary or on google (mostly on google now). Know the meaning and other details.
  • I add the new word, meaning, sentence, 3 synonyms, and 3 antonyms. As it is in the picture. In this manner, I am learning 7 words at a time and also enhancing my usage of words as per the audience I am using the word with.
  • The most important part is using this word or discussing this word with at least 5 people.

Check my entry for the word

MY dictionary MY
I try to pick 3 to 4 words a week, but for my students, I tell them to learn one word a day to make this a part of the habit. The most important part of all is using the word while writing and speaking. This makes me creative and also helps me to be better at communication as I am not short of words while communicating.


If you want me to share new vocabulary words with you, please subscribe to the weekly vocabulary newsletter.


Activity 3- Study Indo-European languages

This is an activity that targets etymological, and passive vocabularies. We know that English belongs to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, but thousands of words belong to Latin in origin.

For learning these words we need to know the additional context to know the details. English is one language that consists of words having origin from Indo-European language, including Greek, German, French, Italian, and even Sanskrit.

Activity 4- Get to know some roots and etymology

This is one activity that helps us get better at etymological and passive vocabularies. If you are someone who wishes to learn lots of words than find out the history of unfamiliar words and know why they mean, what they mean. Knowing the origin of the word provides you better options to learn and recollect.

Few things that can help you that will also help in buliding up your vocabulary.

  • Develop a reading habit – The best way to get better at vocabulary is you should encounter words and that can happen when you read a novel or a newspaper article. It will help you make your list of words part of your vocabulary. This will help you get exposed to unfamiliar words and know the usage of the word also.
  • Use the dictionary and thesaurus – Getting access to online dictionaries and thesauruses can be helpful if used properly. This can help you learn the synonyms, related words, root words, and antonyms to get the context of the word better while writing.
  • Playing word games – If you play games like Scrabble, Crossword puzzle, and Boggle then it can be of great help to expand your English vocabulary. To get the real benefit, you can keep making notes of the new words while playing these games. These words can be learned later time to time.
  • Using flashcards – One of the most used activities to build vocabulary is studying a number of words with the help of flashcards. There are apps also on mobile phones to make flashcards and organize them.
  • Subscribe to “Words of the week” feeds – Many platforms provide word of the day or week feed on their websites. Simply, subscribe to these feeds and get to learn these words. You can subscribe to one of these feeds by mentioning details below.


  • Use Mnemonics – Using mnemonics can be of great help. Mnemonics are a form of word association that will help you to remember word definition and proper usage.
  •  Practice the learned words in conversation – If you just keep on making a list of words and writing them in a notebook, it will be of no use. If you actually want to get these words into your learning than using the words into the conversation can be of great help.

By using the above activities and techniques, it has been observed that many of the students and people are benefited.

Also, remember “no shortcuts can be of use, they do not work”.

Check the series for tips on learning English.

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About the Author: Anju Jindal

Anju is a trainer, entrepreneur, and career growth specialist who helps students, working professionals, women, and Job seekers to reach out to their goals by implementing a Career Growth plan

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