Boosting Your Vocabulary

A good working vocabulary is one component of good reading skills. After all, you need to know the meanings of the words you are reading (or at least be able to make a good, educated guess).

Whether you want to learn new words to be a better reader, beat others at Scrabble, or simply for the love of learning, building your vocabulary can be beneficial in many ways – and it can be fun. I’ve always loved learning new words.

Check out these resources to help you boost your English vocabulary.


Word Workout by Charles Elster

In this engaging narrative, the author serves as an encouraging “fitness” trainer, putting readers through their paces as they learn 10 increasingly challenging levels of 50 words each, with each level divided into five sets of 10 words. Library Journal said, “Fun mental flexing for those seeking alternatives to Sudoku and crossword puzzles.”

Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis

This classic has been around for 60 years. Vocabulary learners love it because it’s easy to use and is divided into thematic sections – like science or medicine. Lewis doesn’t just present words, he provides the background knowledge to fully comprehend them. Most of all it’s a step by step method for increasing knowledge and mastery of written and spoken English.

Flocabulary by Blake Harrison

For a different approach, try building your vocabulary using the infectious beats of Hip Hop. This book and CD builds on our natural tendency to recall song lyrics by infusing difficult words and definitions into irresistibly rhythmic music.

Electronic Resources from the Library

Learning Express

Learning Express (free with your library card) includes resources like “501 Vocabulary Questions,” “Just in Time Vocabulary” and “Vocabulary and Spelling Practice.” Just log in and type “vocabulary” in the search box to begin.

has the Great Courses series Building a Better Vocabulary.  It consists of 33 different audio lectures on topics like “Building Vocabulary Through Games,” “Cranky Words and Cool Words” and “Five Principles for Learning Vocabulary.”



There’s neat stuff to explore on this site. I like how the vocabulary game adjusts to your level so that it becomes a challenge for each person. The site has lists of vocabulary words in categories for specific tests, about a topic like elections, or that are based on literary passages. You can even input a passage and have it make a vocabulary list for you. One of the best features is the dictionary, which is way more than a dry definition. It gives you lots of examples of how the word is used in context, which can really help it stick in your brain. There are also a lot of helpful features for educators.

Do some good and build your vocabulary at the same time – what a win-win! For each vocabulary question you get right the banner ad you see generates money for the United Nations World Food Programme. Two worthy goals – education and ending hunger – are being met at the same time.

Yes, you can sign up for their daily “word of the day” email to boost your word knowledge. There is a lot of other great content at their website that can easily suck in any word aficionado including videos on things like who wrote the alphabet song and what words sound naughty but really aren’t. There are quizzes, quotes, word facts and trends. Follow on twitter for informative tweets on the English language and popular culture.


There are several games you can play both in person and online that can help build your vocabulary. I must confess, I love playing Words With Friends – and sometimes stumble upon new words when I’m searching for viable words to play.  Of course building my vocabulary means I’ll become a better player at Scrabble, Boggle, or even crossword puzzles or hangman.

Taboo is another great game for budding wordsmiths. Trying to think of how to describe something without using certain words stretches your vocabulary muscles and is tons of fun.

Pictionary is another classic that’s great for vocabulary students – trying to draw a word means you need to understand its meaning. If you’re playing with younger players or English as a second language learners use the junior edition or teachers can adapt the concept using their own vocabulary list.

Other tips

My favorite way to improve my vocabulary is to READ. As I read I encounter many new words. Today it is so easy to quickly look up definitions or even pictures that help you grasp the meaning of unfamiliar words. New types of food are my favorite – I always want to see pictures and maybe even recipes for the new food if it looks or sounds tasty. Even if you can’t stop and look up the word, often you’ll get a sense of its meaning by the context.

How about you – what helps you learn new words?  I’d love to hear your tips – just comment on this post.




Deborah Ellerbrook

Some of my many roles at the library include: tax form guru, collectibles promoter, inspirational fiction evangelist, adult literacy promoter, Book Group in a Bag cheerleader, So Many Books book discussion group leader and reader's advisor.