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Information for students

Different types of vocabulary

There are various ways to classify the words of a language. A useful way for ESL students is to divide words in the following 3 broad categories:

Academic vocabulary on this website

This part of the ESL vocabulary website contains 1000+ words that belong to the third category above: academic words. If you want to do well in school, it is very important that you know these words and can use them yourself in writing and class discussions.

Each word is shown with one or more related meanings*, together with at least four sentences exemplifying its use. You are recommended to use your dictionary to find the equivalent of the word in your own language.

Word definitions

It is often difficult to give a short, simple definition that conveys a clear understanding of the word in question. For example, words such as interrupt, interfere, intervene have similar meanings. Therefore, you should regard the definitions in these pages as starting points in understanding a word. You are recommended to find a more accurate definition in a good monolingual English learners dictionary such as the Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, or on the internet. One recommended web dictionary is TheFreeDictionary.

Organizational principle

For the quizzes the words have been organized into groups of 20 nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. in decreasing frequency of appearance in Yahoo. This means, for example, that words in the group Adjectives 2 are found more often in academic text than words in Adjectives 5 group.

It is better to learn the more common words before the less common ones.

Learning the words **

You will eventually learn the words if you do the quizzes containing them several times. However, there are other vocabulary learning methods you can use. In particular, you are recommended to make your own sublist of new words, either using vocabulary cards or by making an electronic list.

The next step

Once you know the 1000+ words on this website, you should aim to learn all the new words on the Academic Word List. This will give you an excellent basis for understanding the English texts you will need to read for school and university.


* Many English academic words have several meanings that can be very different. This website lists the meaning that is, in the opinion of the webmaster, the most useful for ESL students learning and taking exams in English. For example, the adjective complex meaning difficult, complicated is considered more useful than the noun complex meaning having some kind of personality disorder. The definition given, therefore, is that of complex as an adjective. [Some words are listed with two or more meanings - if those meanings are broadly similar.]

** Knowing the meanings of individual words is an essential starting point, but it is also very useful to learn the typical ways a word is used. You can do this by looking at the word in its various example sentences. You will discover, for example, that the verb adapt is typically followed by the preposition to: The company could not adapt to changing circumstances. and that the verb accuse is often used with of and the gerund: He was accused of lying to the committee.

Click to read more information (for teachers) about the academic words on this website, together with their definitions and exemplifying sentences.


Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)