Deepen Your Vocabulary

A good vocabulary means more than having a passing familiarity with a large number of words (wide vocabulary). A good vocabulary also involves knowing the different shades of meanings of those words (deep vocabulary). Here are some words you think you may know but whose precise meanings might surprise you. Learn these meanings to deepen your vocabulary.

Tip: If you are serious about deepening your vocabulary, then Denise and I highly recommend you try the popular vocabulary-improvement software Ultimate Vocabulary. Click Ultimate Vocabulary for details.*

abscond means to run away and hide. You don't "abscond with" anything unless that thing is absconding too; so, if you hear "The burglar absconded with the DVD player", it really means that the DVD player has run away and hidden just as the burglar has done.

bereft does not mean you simply lack something; rather, bereft means something has been taken away from you. Thus, to say "I am bereft of ideas" means someone has stolen those ideas from my mind, which doesn't make much sense.

biceps is both singular and plural. Thus, you can't have one "bicep". You can flex your arm and say "Here, feel my biceps", but you can't say "Here, feel my bicep".

enormity does not mean enormousness, despite what journalists say; enormity means extreme or monstrous wickedness.

erstwhile does not mean earnest; erstwhile means former or previous. "My erstwhile friend" means "My former friend".

factoids are not small facts; a factoid is something untrue that becomes falsely accepted as a fact.

free is an adjective; you can give something away that is free, but you can't give something away "for free".

fulsome is not necessarily a good thing; fulsome can mean cloying, fake, or wearisome from repetition. Be careful if you give someone "fulsome praise".

fun exists only as a noun. You can say you "had fun" but you can't say you "had a fun night out".

noisome does not mean noisy; noisome means annoying, unpleasant, or offensive, and is most often used to mean foul-smelling.

non-plussed does not mean you don't care; non-plussed means you're bewildered.

peruse does not mean to skim; peruse means to read carefully.

plethora does not mean many; plethora means too many.

quote is a verb only, it is not a noun; you can "quote" but you can't "give a quote" — but you can "give a quotation".


  • Jenna Glatzer, Words You Thought You Knew (2004)
  • Oxford English Dictionary Online

*Denise and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include Ultimate Vocabulary. We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of Ultimate Vocabulary because we are happy to endorse that software.


Last modified on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 04:57
English Language Skills (Troy)

English Language Skills (Troy)

I have a law degree, I've run an award-winning business, and I am a published author.

My most popular book is Funny English Errors and Insights: Illustrated.

My new book is The Funny Dictionary.

I have a particular interest in vocabulary improvement and speed reading.

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