vocabulary

noun

vo·​cab·​u·​lary vō-ˈka-byə-ˌler-ē How to pronounce vocabulary (audio)
və-
plural vocabularies
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.
2
a
: 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.
Recent Examples on the Web The men are talking about chess, using vocabulary of which Margaret has only the vaguest comprehension—gambits, sacrifices—and in the long corridor their voices echo off the walls and ceiling. Sally Rooney, The New Yorker, 1 July 2024 The phrase has become such a part of the vocabulary that for many its origins have been obscured. JSTOR Daily, 24 June 2024 Why do people with bigger hands have a better vocabulary? Big Think, 24 June 2024 Don’t misunderstand: There are several catchy, clever folk-rock tunes here, all showcasing Meloy’s famed vocabulary and seemingly limitless supply of memorable melodies. Ben Salmon, SPIN, 20 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for vocabulary 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'vocabulary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of vocabulary was in 1532

Dictionary Entries Near vocabulary

Cite this Entry

“Vocabulary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vocabulary. Accessed 15 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

vocabulary

noun
vo·​cab·​u·​lary vō-ˈkab-yə-ˌler-ē How to pronounce vocabulary (audio)
plural vocabularies
1
: a list or collection of words defined or explained
2
: a stock of words used in a language, by a group or individual, or in relation to a subject

More from Merriam-Webster on vocabulary

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