vocabulary

noun
vo·​cab·​u·​lary | \ vō-ˈka-byə-ˌler-ē How to pronounce vocabulary (audio) , və-\
plural vocabularies

Definition of vocabulary

1 : a list or collection of words or of words and phrases usually alphabetically arranged and explained or defined : lexicon The vocabulary for the week is posted online every Monday.
2a : a sum or stock of words employed by a language, group, individual, or work or in a field of knowledge a child with a large vocabulary the vocabulary of physicians a writer known for employing a rich vocabulary
b : a list or collection of terms or codes available for use (as in an indexing system) … the oldest Sumerian cuneiform writing could not render normal prose but was a mere telegraphic shorthand, whose vocabulary was restricted to names, numerals, units of measure, words for objects counted, and a few adjectives.— Jared Diamon
3 : a supply of expressive techniques or devices (as of an art form) an impressive musical vocabulary

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The Vocabulary of Vocabulary

For many people, the word vocabulary is primarily associated with the number of words that a person knows; one either has a large or a small vocabulary. But the word has many shades of meaning and is nicely representative of the nuanced and multi-hued nature of so much of the English lexicon.

Vocabulary may indeed refer to the collection of words known by an individual or by a large group of people. It may also signify the body of specialized terms in a field of study or activity (“the vocabulary of science”). It may designate a physical object, such as a book, in which a collection of (usually alphabetized) words is defined or explained. And it may name things other than words, such as “a list or collection of terms or codes available for use,” “a set or list of nonverbal symbols” (such as marine alphabet flag signals), and “a set of expressive forms used in an art” (as in “the vocabulary of dance”).

Examples of vocabulary in a Sentence

the basic vocabulary of English She has learned a lot of new vocabulary. He has a somewhat limited vocabulary. Reading helped to expand her vocabulary. the vocabulary of the art world The Internet has given us a whole new vocabulary.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The social media company is supporting research into creating a headset able to transcribe a vocabulary of 1,000 words, at a rate of 100-words per minute, just by thinking. Dominic Rech, CNN, "Brain implants could give governments and companies power to read your mind, scientists warn," 10 Sep. 2019 The plaques next to the Italian parade armor feature vocabulary familiar to a jewelry writer: embossing, repoussé, chasing, hammered steel, gilt. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, "Louis Vuitton's New High Jewelry Collection Was Inspired by Medieval Heroines," 27 Aug. 2019 Teachers tend to be amazed at how quickly children absorb sophisticated vocabulary (like fertile and opponent) and learn to make connections between different topics. Natalie Wexler, The Atlantic, "Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong," 9 July 2019 By age seven, despite heroic efforts by family and rehabilitation specialists, his vocabulary, diet and social interactions were all extremely limited. Bob Roehr, Smithsonian, "How the Gut Microbiome Could Provide a New Tool to Treat Autism," 14 June 2019 All sports have their own vocabularies, the shorthand lingo to communicate intricacies of rules and how play proceeds. Merrill Fabry, Time, "Why Is Tennis Scored So Weirdly?," 11 Jan. 2018 Keynote is one word in a symphony of musical metaphors that sing throughout our everyday vocabulary. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Our melodious English language is music to our ears," 31 Aug. 2019 Marie was an energetic toddler who, frustrated by her limited vocabulary, often threw tantrums. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "She’s been bounced through more than a dozen foster homes. And she’s just 6," 24 Aug. 2019 Protecting other paradises For residents in high-risk areas of California, fires are a terrifying reality, with their own vocabulary of defensible space, home-hardening and ember storms. Taylor Kate Brown, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Briefing: The Trump tax change CA Dems actually like," 20 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vocabulary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of vocabulary

1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vocabulary

Middle French vocabulaire, probably from Medieval Latin vocabularium, from neuter of vocabularius verbal, from Latin vocabulum

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Statistics for vocabulary

Last Updated

19 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for vocabulary

The first known use of vocabulary was in 1532

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More Definitions for vocabulary

vocabulary

noun

English Language Learners Definition of vocabulary

: the words that make up a language
: all of the words known and used by a person
: words that are related to a particular subject

vocabulary

noun
vo·​cab·​u·​lary | \ vō-ˈka-byə-ˌler-ē How to pronounce vocabulary (audio) \
plural vocabularies

Kids Definition of vocabulary

1 : a list or collection of words and their meanings
2 : the words used in a language, by a group or individual, or in relation to a subject

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