The jury is in…Vocabulary matters. Whether it’s just reading, doing well on the SAT, or advancing one’s career, knowing more words makes a significant difference. The Romans even asserted that words where the way we mentally indexed and ordered our thoughts.

All of this is true, and clearly, reading a lot or memorizing words can help. There are, however, three shortcuts you might find even more helpful and much easier.

1) Learn Latin Roots to Improve Vocabulary

When you learn a single root of a word it can mean basically learning a dozen or more additional words just by association. Con = With/Together… so ‘confidence’ (with faith), ‘conduct’ (draw with / lead with…like conduct electricity), ‘conflict’ (strike together), etc.

So, In = Not…hence, ‘infidel’ (see confidence) means ‘not faith’ or ‘not a believer / faithful’.

2) Learn Synonyms to Improve Vocabulary

Synonyms allow you (or your student) to quickly connect the basic word meanings together in a single moment. In a way, it’s like learning one definitions, but then learning multiple words; that is multiplying your efforts! Here’s what I it looks like—

Ask– — question, inquire of, seek information from, put a question to, demand, request, expect, inquire, query, interrogate, examine, quiz

Awful — dreadful, terrible, abominable, bad, poor, unpleasant

Bad — evil, immoral, wicked, corrupt, sinful, depraved, rotten, contaminated, spoiled, tainted, harmful, injurious, unfavorable, defective, inferior, imperfect, substandard, faulty, improper, inappropriate, unsuitable, disagreeable, unpleasant, cross, nasty, unfriendly, irascible, horrible, atrocious, outrageous, scandalous, infamous, wrong, noxious, sinister, putrid, snide, deplorable, dismal, gross, heinous, nefarious, base, obnoxious, detestable, despicable, contemptible, foul, rank, ghastly, execrable

Beautiful — pretty, lovely, handsome, attractive, gorgeous, dazzling, splendid, magnificent, comely, fair, ravishing, graceful, elegant, fine, exquisite, aesthetic, pleasing, shapely, delicate, stunning, glorious, heavenly, resplendent, radiant, glowing, blooming, sparkling

Begin — start, open, launch, initiate, commence, inaugurate, originate

Big — enormous, huge, immense, gigantic, vast, colossal, gargantuan, large, sizable, grand, great, tall, substantial, mammoth, astronomical, ample, broad, expansive, spacious, stout, tremendous, titanic, mountainous

Brave — courageous, fearless, dauntless, intrepid, plucky, daring, heroic, valorous, audacious, bold, gallant, valiant, doughty, mettlesome

Break — fracture, rupture, shatter, smash, wreck, crash, demolish, atomize

Really that’s all there is to it. Just a few of these a day will multiply exponentially, rather than the slow path of word-by-word labor.

Of course, almost all words only have their ‘real meaning’ in the context in which they are used, so #3 is still the easiest of all.

3) Read to Improve Vocabulary

It almost occurs naturally! Keep reading and checking the words you don’t know…you’ll be smarter in no time!

That’s it, enjoy!

Off to learn,


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand