Having a Good Vocabulary

(understanding how English words are formed and where they come from helps everyone who finds unfamiliar words)

Having a good vocabulary is certainly advantageous for many reasons:

Educational reasons include: having a strong speaking and writing vocabulary will make it easier for anyone to do better in any educational situation. An extensive vocabulary facilitates not only regular studies, but it can also help during the many standardized tests a person is likely required to take.

Even if a person manages to avoid taking standardized tests in an educational situation, more and more businesses require personality tests, competency tests, etc. in a work force.

Communication: Having a functional vocabulary strengthens our communication skills. Not only does an above average vocabulary increase the number of words we use and understand, but it also makes us more adept at modifying our language to suit various situations which we may have to deal with.

Social situations: Knowing what type of speech is appropriate in different social situations and having the vocabulary we need to speak confidently where ever we are can make us more self assured and comfortable speakers.

A good vocabulary is not about using big words, foreign words, or obscure words!

A good English vocabulary is about using words to convey meanings in the way we want them to be expressed. Of course, the best tactic is knowing which words are appropriate in different situations.

For many reasons, English can be a difficult language to learn. As a native speaker of English, we are probably familiar with the idiosyncrasies which make the language so confusing. Understanding how English words are formed and where they come from can help us when we come up against unfamiliar words.

English has borrowed many words from other languages

One of the reasons the English language is so "rich" is because English words are the result of, or are influenced by, many different languages.

English is categorized as essentially a Germanic language (including other Germanic languages; such as, German, Dutch, Flemish, and the Scandinavian languages). Many English words go back to German roots: ox, cow, meadow, grass, pig, king, knife, and knight are just a few words which English still utilizes. English has also been enriched by absorbing and adopting words, and parts of words, from many other languages; such as, Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, and others.

One example of a well-known borrowed word comes from Old German. In English, the word tree means "tree". Another related word for "tree" is arbor, which is Latin for tree and so, again, it means "tree" in English.

Arbor Day is a day for planting trees; so, in English, if we know what tree means, and if we know that arbor is another word for "tree", we should know that anytime we see arbor as a word, that word must have something to do with trees.

What arbor's relationship to trees is depends on the prefixes and suffixes which are applied. For example, here are a few suffixes applied to arbor:

  1. Aboreous (suffix -ous, "full of"); so the word now means, "full of trees"; as in, "The area was dark and arboreous."
  2. Arboreal (suffix -al, "of or relating to"); as in, "Arboreal animals; such as, monkeys, live in trees."
  3. An arborist (suffix -ist, "someone who does"); is a person who works with and cares for trees; as in "They had to call an arborist for advice about the most efficient way to transplant trees in their backyard."

Additional aboral examples may be seen at this Word Info page.