Word MeaningsVocabulary represents the building blocks of a language.

In order to really get to know the words in the following word lists, you need to not only know the definitions that you can find in dictionaries, but you also need to know the contexts within which the words are used. I recommend that you try to use these words in sentences with other English speakers, practice including the words in writings that you produce and more importantly, notice the words when you are reading and engaged in conversation.

Very few words have only one meaning. Word lists generally are compilations of single words (out of context) with one, two or even three definitions but no explanation as to why the meanings may be different. The reason for the different meanings lies in the context within which the words are used. The words, host, brand and barrel have different grammatical functions in English but even within the same function have different meanings. The surrounding context indicates the sense of the words. Rather than create a word list that includes each context within which a word may be found (that would be an impossible task!), it is more productive for the language learner to discover the contexts while actually using the language. There are many examples of phrases whose meanings differ from the definitions of the individual words within the phrase. "Conventional wisdom" comes to mind.

After the initial lists of words are learned (mastering them is rarely done, even by native speakers) it is important to familiarize yourself with the actual uses of the words and members of their families (ie. educate, educates, educating, education, educator, educational and educated). Above all, remember to read, read, read!

Magazines, newspapers, books (not just textbooks), the Internet and even TV are all rich sources of the written English language. Each has its own context within which the language is used. The vocabulary that you read (or hear) in the sports section of the newspaper (or on radio or TV) is not the same as you will find in a travel magazine or at the theater.

Once a certain critical mass (?) of vocabulary has been reached (at least two to three thousand words) many educators feel that further learning can take place incidentally while the learner reads authentic texts. Other educators favor Extensive Reading, which emphasizes reading for enjoyment rather than authenticity, at this stage. Often, when you encounter an unknown word in a passage, its meaning can be deduced (guessed) by considering how it might contribute to the overall message that is being conveyed. This saves a trip to the dictionary and the search for meaning itself can be enlightening. For more on guessing the meaning of unknown vocabulary, please proceed to the next page.

In addition, when you have the opportunity (or can create the opportunity), speak, speak, speak! Having conversations wi<November 8, 2016y to work on each other's <November 8, 2016y appropriate to ask the co-interlocutor for elaboration on unknown vocabulary.

I also recommend that you explore the context of the words with a concordancer. These valuable tools are discussed further in the attached Corpus Linguistics section.

Word Lists

General Word Lists:
100 Most Commonly Used Words
Second 100 Most Commonly Used Words
Third 100 Most Commonly Used Words

Academic Word Lists:
The Most Frequent Academic Words
Second Most Frequent Academic Words
Third Most Frequent Academic Words
Fourth Most Frequent Academic Words
Fifth Most Frequent Academic Words
Sixth Most Frequent Academic Words
Seventh Most Frequent Academic Words

Eighth Most Frequent Academic Words
Ninth Most Frequent Academic Words
Tenth Most Frequent Academic Words


Rather than deliniate all the various configuations of word lists, the following link can serve as a productive starting point for further investigation of vocabulary by the student.

More Word Lists


Last Updated: November 8, 2016