Vocabulary Definition

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The term vocabulary refers to the words and phrases that a person or group of people knows. When you start off learning a language you won't know many words and you will therefore have a small vocabulary. As your knowledge of a language grows, your vocabulary will grow too. Someone who is fluent in a language will have a large vocabulary.

Your active vocabulary is the words you use regularly, and your passive vocabulary consists of the words that you recognise and understand, but do not use regularly. Many native speakers use a relatively small active vocabuary- a few thousand words is common, but most have a considerably bigger passive vocabulary, which the use when reading or listening. One mistake that learners make is to think that if they acquire a huge vocabulary, they will master the language. In most cases, spending more time on learning the different uses of common and useful words would be better than learning obscure words. The word set has over a hundred meanings, so learning a fair few of them might be more useful than knowing what a sesquipedalian (a big word for someone who uses big words) is.  An individual's vocabulary is called their idiolect.

You might also hear the term Technical Vocabulary, which is words or phrases that are used primarily in a specific line of work or profession.

For example, people who work in the steel industry often use words like "Rockwell", "Olsen", "cup test", and "camber". These words have special meanings pertaining to the manufacture of steel.

Similarly, an electrician needs to know technical words such as "capacitor", "impedance", and "surge capacity"; words which most people outside of that industry never use.



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Related Language Quizzes

Test your understanding by taking our language quizzes related to vocabulary.

Level Quiz
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Beginner Borrow & Lend (10)
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Beginner Lend & Borrow (9)
Beginner Look, See & Watch (10)
Beginner Lose & Miss (11)
Beginner Months (12)
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Beginner Rob & Steal (10)
Beginner Seem & Look Like (10)
Beginner Sport (10)
Beginner Sport- Play, Go & Do (10)
Beginner Telephones (12)
Beginner Units & Containers (10)
Intermediate Abbreviations (12)
Intermediate Ache, Hurt, Pain & Sore (10)
Intermediate Achieve, Cope & Manage (10)
Intermediate Allow, Let, Make & Force (10)
Intermediate Arrive, Get & Reach (10)
Intermediate Ban, Forbid & Prohibit (10)
Intermediate Begin & Start (10)
Intermediate Bill, Fare, Fee, Fine & Tip (7)
Intermediate Care, Matter & Mind (10)
Intermediate Close & Shut (11)
Intermediate Die, Death, & Dead (10)
Intermediate End & Finish (10)
Intermediate End & Finish (10)
Intermediate Expect, Hope, Look Forward & Wait (10)
Intermediate Hard & Hardly (10)
Intermediate Lie & Lay (10)
Intermediate Life (10)
Intermediate Make or Do (20)
Intermediate Make or Do (2) (34)
Intermediate Money (10)
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