Everyone is looking, directly or indirectly, to increase their vocabulary in English. And because of the sheer number of words available in the English language (over one million), there isn’t anybody who knows every single one of them, let alone the expressions that we can add to that list.
The English dictionary list is constantly growing too, with new words added every year that represent new ideas, objects or even emotions and states that had previously been unidentified. English is an incredibly pragmatic and practical language too, so if another language has a word that is deemed useful, then it is quickly absorbed into the English lexicon. Here are just some examples:
karaoke – Japanese
loot – Hindi
safari – Arabic
wanderlust – German
Fortunately, there are some great tools out there – technological and digital tools – which can help us to absorb and learn more English vocabulary. Here are some of the best examples:
An online dictionary
Paper dictionaries still exist, of course, but the online dictionaries are just that little bit more practical these days when everyone carries a cell phone or similar mobile device through which they can access the online versions. Online dictionaries, such as Cambridge Online, offer definitions, example sentences, synonyms, antonyms and pronunciation of all those 1m+ words that exist in the English language.
For learners of the English language, the audio tool that allows users to hear the pronunciation of the said word, in the UK or UK English, is incredibly useful. The ‘word of the day’ feature is also a great way to continue increasing your English vocabulary, whether you are a native speaker, or learning the language.
This website, as the name suggests, is targeted directly at English words, and how to learn them. An award-winning site, Vocabulary.com offers definitions and example sentences, akin to a dictionary, but then so much more besides, with fun vocabulary games that can help to retain the words, and also lesson creation tools that can help teachers to create interesting and fun vocabulary activities for their students. Vocabualry.com also conveniently measures your progress in learning all these words.
This site, powered by Merriam Webster, is particularly focused on those learning English, and its objective is to provide simple and fun definitions and activities that make learning English just that little bit easier.
This hugely convenient writing and language tool, available as an extension for Chrome and Firefox, allows you to highlight and click words you come across as you browse, providing convenient definitions and synonyms of the words to help you learn English as you peruse the web. The writing assistant provides templates and makes recommended suggestions and edits to vocabulary and grammar mistakes. It’s a great way to continue learning new vocabulary, and solve issues that exist with your existing lexis.
LingQ offers an incredible range of diverse English-language content in the form of videos, podcasts, written articles and much more besides.
All of this content then allows you to explore the vocabulary within, so by selecting the words you are interested in (or keen to learn), you can add them to your own private list to practice and help retain. LingQ even tracks your progress as you learn, and its offline availability means you can continue improving wherever you may be.
We have briefly spoken about pronunciation, which is a vital aspect of learning new vocabulary. After all, not even native English-speakers know how to pronounce a word that was previously unknown to them – the rules are just to non-existent. An online dictionary such as Cambridge Online is one solution, but Forvo focusses on this very challenge.
This app gives you access to native speaker pronunciation of words and then allows you to practice and compare. It’s simple in its design, and incredibly practical to use, even on the go. This should be a staple app for English language learners.
The Apple press-and-hold option
Conveniently, Apple has built-in a vocabulary-defining service on their products since the release of iOS 7, which works across Safari, iBooks and more besides. Simply press and hold on the word that you are unsure of, and a pop-up menu will allow you to select ‘define’, which then gives you the information you need to understand the word in question.
There are apps for Android that can be downloaded to offer a similar service, such as WordLookUp.
Ask your virtual assistant
And finally, for those with Siri, Alexa, or any other running virtual assistant at home or on their devices, it really is as easy as this.
‘What does ‘egghead’* mean?’
Moments later, your virtual assistant will be reading out the dictionary definition. And you don’t need to be an egghead to get that working!
(*An egghead is a very intelligent person)