Improving Your Vocabulary: Word Lists

When improving your vocabulary, you might ask "What words should I learn"? Educators have answered this question by compiling various word lists. Here is a selection of words from one of the most famous vocabulary word lists.


Note: Denise and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include the popular vocabulary-improvement software Ultimate Vocabulary.*


In 1921, Professor Edward Thorndike wrote The Teacher's Word Book, comprising a list of 10,000 words. According to Thorndike, his list provided the most frequently occurring words that should be reinforced by instruction and thus become a permanent part of a student's vocabulary. Theoretically, when you have learned all the important meanings of the words in the list, you will have the basis of a non-technical working vocabulary (Pitkin, 63).

Some of the words in Thorndike's vocabulary word list are archaic. So, I have put together a refined list of around 800 words from Thorndike's vocabulary word list, as earlier refined in Walter Pitkin's The Art of Rapid Reading. When learning these words, remember you must learn all the different shades of meaning of the word, because a good vocabulary is one that is both wide and deep.

To learn these words properly, you can use the popular vocabulary-building software Ultimate Vocabulary. If you already have Ultimate Vocabulary, then:

  • Click "Custom Word Lists"
  • Click "Create New" (call the list something like Thorndike word list)
  • From the list below, copy the word you want to learn
  • Paste the word in Ultimate Vocabulary's dictionary and click "Lookup"
  • Click "Add to list"

Ultimate Vocabulary will then drill you on the meanings of these words, with pronunciation, flash cards, exercises, and other proven techniques for improving your vocabulary. Of course, you can also use the many prebuilt vocabulary word lists that already come with Ultimate Vocabulary.

Here is a selection from Thorndike's vocabulary word list:

A VOCABULARY WORD LIST TO MASTER

abash

abject

abridge

absolve

abstinence

accessory

accordance

accost

acquit

acute

adhere

adieu

adjourn

adjudge

admonish

adverse

affront

afresh

aggravate

aghast

agitate

akin

alacrity

albeit

alcove

allay

allege

alliance

ally

aloof

alternate

alumni

amiss

amity

anecdote

animosity

annihilate

antagonist

antic

aperture

apothecary

apparatus

apparition

appease

appertain

apprehend

approbation

arbitrary

arrant

ascertain

ascribe

aspire

assay

assemblage

astray

atone

attest

audacious

augment

austere

auxiliary

avarice

baffle

balk

balmy

barge

barrow

bask

bass

baste

bauble

bawl

beacon

bearing

beck

belated

belie

benefactor

benevolence

benign

bequeath

bevel

bleak

blight

blithe

bluster

bode

bolster

brandish

brawl

brawn

bray

brazen

breach

bristle

brittle

broach

broil

buff

bulwark

cackle

canopy

capacious

caprice

carouse

carrion

caustic

cavalier

challis

chamois

chancellor

chandelier

chasm

chide

chink

chivalry

churl

clamber

clamorous

clemency

clench

clink

cloy

commodious

commune

complement

concord

concur

conflagration

conjugation

conjunction

conjure

consort

conspire

contemporary

contention

continental

continuance

continuation

contrive

convene

covetous

coy

crag

cravat

craven

creak

creditor

credulous

creed

crevice

crystalline

cudgel

cue

dastard

daub

dearth

debase

decimal

declension

defer

degenerate

degrade

deity

delta

delude

deluge

demeanor

denote

denounce

dependant

dependent

depute

deride

descry

desist

destitute

determinate

devout

diadem

dilapidated

dilate

diligence

dilute

diplomat

discern

disclaim

discomfit

discord

discreet

dismount

dispatch

displace

dissembler

dissension

dissipate

dissolution

dissuade

divination

divulge

dogma

doleful

domain

don

dotage

dote

dower

dowry

dram

dreg

dross

drought

dupe

durable

dwindle

edify

edition

efface

effective

eke

elapse

embark

embassy

embattled

ember

embody

emboss

eminence

emit

enact

encamp

encompass

endue

engender

engross

enhance

enjoin

enmity

ensign

ensnare

entangle

enthusiast

entrails

entrust

envelop

environ

epitaph

epoch

equity

equivalent

eschew

espouse

espy

estrange

ethereal

evade

evince

exempt

exert

exhalation

exhort

expedient

expend

extol

fallow

famish

fealty

felon

fervent

fillet

flange

flank

flay

flecked

flexible

flinty

flounce

flue

foliage

forbade

forbearance

forcible

forfeiture

formation

formidable

fortitude

frailty

fraught

fray

frenzy

froth

frugal

gabble

gaberdine

gaiter

galvanize

gambol

gape

garner

garret

garrison

gaudy

gauge

gaunt

gauze

gesture

geyser

girth

gnash

goad

gradation

grail

granary

grandeur

granulate

grapple

graven

grimace

gripe

grotesque

grovel

gruel

guile

guise

gully

hackney

hale

halter

hap

harbinger

harmonious

harrow

haunch

havoc

hazard

haze

heinous

hereditary

heresy

heritage

hie

hillock

hilt

hitch

hock

hoist

homage

hone

hub

huff

hulk

hull

husk

hustle

hypocrisy

hysterical

ignoble

imbibe

immeasurable

imminent

immovable

immunity

immutable

impair

impartial

impediment

impel

impend

impenetrable

imperil

imperious

impetuous

impious

imply

imposition

impotent

impressive

impute

inanimate

incessant

inclination

incomparable

indictment

indolence

inducement

inestimable

inexhaustible

infallible

infamous

infidel

infuse

ingenious

inglorious

iniquity

injunction

inlaid

inscribe

insinuate

insole

insolence

inspect

insulate

insure

insurgent

interpose

intolerable

intricate

invariable

invert

inveterate

invigorate

invoice

ire

jay

jeopardy

jocund

jollity

jot

jubilant

judicious

jurisdiction

jut

keel

knead

knoll

labyrinth

lading

ladle

languid

lank

lapse

lascivious

lathe

lattice

laud

lea

leathern

leaven

leer

legacy

legible

legislate

lever

levy

lewd

liable

libel

liege

lineal

lineament

lint

loam

loathsome

loft

lop

lore

lucid

luminous

luxurious

macaroon

machinist

magnanimity

maim

malicious

mallet

mangle

manifestation

mantel

marrow

maul

maxim

meager

mediator

meditation

medley

meed

menace

mercenary

meridian

mete

metropolis

mettle

mien

minion

ministration

minnow

mitigate

molten

monotonous

monumental

mortar

mortify

motley

mottle

muff

muffle

mull

muster

mutinous

myriad

nave

negate

negligence

negotiate

nestle

nether

nettle

nominate

notch

notorious

novice

noxious

oblique

oblivion

obnoxious

obscene

obscurity

obsequious

observance

obstruction

obtainable

officious

olfactory

omnipotent

opportune

oppressive

originate

pageant

palate

pall

palpable

parable

pare

parley

partition

pastoral

pedant

penance

pelt

pendant

penetrate

penitent

pent

penury

peradventure

percolate

perdition

perennial

perjure

pernicious

perpetuate

perplexity

persecution

perseverance

personage

perspective

pert

pertain

peruse

pervade

pestilence

petrify

pinnacle

pique

piston

plaid

plait

pluperfect

pompous

populace

portal

portentous

prance

prate

precaution

precede

precipice

precocious

predecessor

predominant

preeminence

prejudice

premier

preparatory

preposition

prerogative

presage

prescription

pretext

privy

proclamation

prodigal

prodigy

proffer

proficient

profuse

progeny

prologue

promenade

promontory

propagate

propensity

prophetic

propitious

prostrate

provocation

prowess

quire

quotient

radius

raiment

rampant

rampart

rapine

rapt

ratify

rational

ravenous

ravine

ravish

raze

repine

rebellious

rebound

recede

receptacle

recessive

reck

recline

recoil

reconciliation

recount

redoubt

redress

reek

reflexive

regime

reiterate

relinquish

repeal

repel

reprobate

repress

repulse

repute

requite

resemblance

residue

respite

resplendent

restitution

retinue

retort

reverberate

revere

revert

revery

revile

rife

riotous

robust

roe

rood

rosette

rosin

rout

rue

ruminate

rung

russet

sachet

salutary

salve

sanction

satiate

saunter

savour

scabbard

scaffold

scamper

scoop

scruple

scullion

scurry

scythe

sect

sedate

sediment

sedition

seer

semblance

sentinel

sepulchre

sequel

sequester

seraph

settee

sexton

shawl

sheaf

sheen

sheer

shekel

shellac

shuttle

sickle

sieve

sill

simultaneous

sinewy

singe

skein

skirmish

skulk

slunk

smitten

smock

sodden

solder

solidify

solvent

sombre

sonnet

sordid

specious

spectre

spick

sportive

sprawl

sprig

sprightly

sprite

squall

stark

statute

stave

stealth

sterile

stifle

stile

straiten

stratagem

strewn

stripling

strode

stronghold

strop

strung

subvert

successor

succour

sufferance

suite

sully

sultry

sumptuous

sunder

sundry

sup

superfluity

superiority

supplant

supple

suppliant

supplicate

supremacy

surety

surmise

surmount

sustenance

swarthy

swerve

sylph

sylvan

symmetrical

symphony

symptom

syndicate

tabernacle

tabor

tallow

taunt

tawny

teem

temperament

tempestuous

temporal

terrestrial

testament

tether

thrall

thwart

timorous

tincture

tinder

tinge

tithe

torpid

torrid

transact

transcendent

transgress

transient

travail

tremulous

tribulation

tribunal

trivet

trodden

troth

trowel

trundle

tuft

tumultuous

turbulent

turnpike

twill

undefiled

unerring

unfeigned

unfurl

unscrupulous

upholster

usurp

usury

vacillate

vane

vantage

variable

variegated

vassal

vat

vaunt

vehement

venturous

verdant

verdure

vernal

vesper

vestal

vesture

vial

victual

vigilance

vigorous

vintage

virtual

visage

voile

volley

voluptuous

wampum

wane

wantonness

weal

wean

wend

whit

whoop

wile

wrangle

wrathful

wrest

wringer

writhe

wroth

yore

zephyr

REFERENCES

Edward Thorndike, The Teacher's Word Book (1921)

Walter B Pitkin, The Art of Rapid Reading (1929)


*Denise and I have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of the Ultimate Vocabulary software because we are happy to endorse that software.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 04:38
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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