Happy Friday! Here in the U.S., we’re looking forward to a long weekend with Labor Day this Monday. A national holiday since the late 1800’s, Labor Day celebrates the contributions of American workers. It is also the unofficial end of summer, so many people plan beach and lake trips, cookouts, and parties.

Are you laboring to improve your English vocabulary? This week’s Friday 5 is a collection of ideas and links to help you with this important task.

Keep a vocabulary notebook

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There’s a reason why this is so often recommended: It works! Keep a record of new words that you’ve learned and review them often. Find suggestions on what to include in your vocabulary notebook entries here, here, and here.

Use a good student dictionary

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Dictionaries created especially for English students give clear, simple definitions and example sentences. You can use a hard-copy dictionary, an online dictionary, or an app. One excellent free online dictionary is the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary, which gives audio pronunciations in both British and American English.

Learn common Greek and Latin word parts


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English vocabulary borrows heavily from Greek and Latin word parts. Learning the meanings of these parts makes it easier to figure out likely meanings of unfamiliar words. For example, think about the word destruction.


  • “De-” is a prefix (addition to the beginning of a word) meaning “opposite”.
  • “Struct” is a root meaning “to build”.
  • “-ion” is a suffix (addition to the end of a word) meaning “process”.

Therefore, destruction means the process that is the opposite of building something.

View our English Vocabulary Power slideshows to learn more common English prefixes, roots, and suffixes.

Play vocabulary games

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Games are a fun way to practice your vocabulary skills without feeling like you’re working. You can find crossword puzzles and other word puzzles in most newspapers. Smartphone games like Words With Friends let you sharpen your vocabulary, well, with friends. The online vocabulary quiz game Free Rice lets you pick your skill level and donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program for each correct answer.

Refer to word lists


Researchers have created lists of the most common English words for writers and teachers, who use them to create textbooks and other materials for English students. A pair of free iPhone apps use flashcards to teach these words. The NGSL (New General Service List) focuses on everyday English, while the NAWL (New Academic Word List) includes more academic vocabulary for university purposes.