Dictionary and vocabulary builder


OK! Here’s where you start to gain marks for great vocabulary.

Developing your English language vocabulary is a task you must undertake very seriously and it should be something that you give a little time to EVERY DAY. Fortunately you can make the job much faster and easier by using technology. There are dozens of dictionaries and vocabulary sites available online and to download onto your own computer. I recommend only two that are worth spending money on.

In my opinion (and experience as a learner of Greek) there is one dictionary which is better than all the rest – the excellent Pop-up Dictionary. Although there are many free dictionaries available this is one that I recommend that you buy. You can download a free trial version here along with as many different language dictionaries as you want but to keep the very important testing feature you need to buy it. Believe me it is well worth while. The important thing is to take a little time to change the appearance of your Pop-up dictionary to make the biggest impact on your eye and brain. The picture below shows how I customised mine. It fills my whole computer screen – boy, do I remember those words!! I also switched off the annoying noise it made when I first got it and set the timer to pop-up once every 30 minutes instead of every 5 (default setting). You can switch off the Pop-up mode altogether if you prefer but if you are really trying hard to improve vocabulary and spelling you might like to let it nag you!


Find out more about PopUp Dictionary here and see all the different dictionaries and features.

Try it out now: Here’s the free trial link again:

Pop-up Dictionary free trial

If you need advice about setting up the dictionary so that it is just how you like it contact the good people at the Pop-up website. You will find that they can advise in many different languages if you find that the instructions in English are a bit too difficult.

The second product I recommend is called Ultimate Vocabulary. I looked at many and this one is the best value. You can get it here

With Ultimate Vocabulary Software, you get:

  • More powerful vocabulary words than any other program
  • More interactive ways to learn than any other program
  • More information on words than any other program
  • A personal computer tutor to guide you to a powerful vocabulary… step-by-step

It’s a terrific product that is well worth buying. I looked at many similar products and none of them offered so much or looked so good. With Ultimate Vocabulary and PopUp Dictionary you will have everything you need to learn all the vocabulary you need for your exams. Both will make it much easier to look up any words you need as you are reading anything on your computer or online. So if you want to succeed in your English studies, increase your vocab and spelling accuracy stop wasting time playing the same old games on your computer and work with PopUp and Ultimate instead.

I also recommend two free online dictionaries online which are valuable for looking up English definitions of words. Put these two on your web browser’s Favourites bar for easy access.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Longman is a full dictionary which gives you full English definitions and information about the different parts of words as well as expressions and idioms where your word appears. Of all the online dictionaries I think it is the best.


During lessons my students and I often find that we want a quick definition of a word without becoming distracted from whatever we are doing. Rhymezone is originally designed to give you words which rhyme with the word you have selected as well as a variety of other options. We mostly select the definition option but also find that looking at synonyms and antonyms can be very useful for solving problems in Reading comprehension exercises.

What I DO NOT recommend are sites like Babelfish or the Google translation tool. These will just help you make mistakes as they cannot tell the difference between when a word is being used as a verb or a noun for instance. The tools I have suggested above are much better.


As with all online quizzes and exercises I recommend they are quick and easy AND COMPLETELY FREE – the idea is that you do them a few times each.

There are lots of games and quizzes that are nice to use if you want to study with a friend. There are lots of resources for Phrasal Verbs too. It has never been so easy to learn them.

Don’t be put off just because there are thousands of words on the sites. Keep doing a little, aim to enjoy it, choose the sites which seem to you to be the most useful and keep coming back for more. You will soon be surprised at how much better you have become!

And by the way, just because it says “Advanced” doesn’t mean Lower students shouldn’t do it!! Some of the Advanced quizzes are really interesting. Go on, Amaze Yourself!!

As always, don’t go crazy! A little bit every day is better than spending hours and hours getting sick of English

Remember! Slow and Steady Wins the Race.

* Idiom Connection. Idioms are fun, this site is too. EVERYONE


* Vocabulary Coach – this is fun. you can do a timed quiz where you compare your score with others. Different games including definition first. There is a lot on this site – you’ll never be bored again because you can always find some English exercises to do!! Very useful and fun for all levels


* IELTS Graph question vocab but useful for everyone. Describing Trends. Advanced


* These are learning quizzes with definitions designed for SAT and GRE exams but perfect for EVERYONE


Also on that site look at the “vocabulary in context” quizzes which are very good. Don’t bother with the “expert” level. Not worth your time…just very strange words…kind of interesting if you like it though.

* IMPORTANT!! FREERICE.COM DON’T MISS THIS!!!! This is a brilliant website where you can not only practice your vocabulary skills but help hungry people in the Third World. Every time you get a word right the site’s advertisers will donate 10 grains of rice to a Hunger charity. When you start the quiz it will give you a selection of words, some easy and some difficult and then adjust to how well you do so everyone has a good chance of earning lots of rice. It is very addictive! Please put it on your favourites bar and aim to visit it and try some words every day. EVERYONE


* The exercises on this page have very boring-looking names but they are extremely useful and not as bad as you might think. Click on them and find out what they are all about. You might be surprised how effective you find them. So don’t be put off by how it looks. Perfect stuff for CPE and IELTS 7 candidates.


* Great page of suffixes. Advanced


* And one on prefixes. All good for the derivatives exercise. Advanced


* This page is great for everyone from ECCE/FCE/IELTS 5candidates right through to IELTS 7 and CPE people. It is made by the guy who made our favourite site a4esl.org (Charles Kelly).

You should select topics relevant to the exam and have fun trying lots of different guessing and spelling games.


* A page on irregular nouns. You can bet the examiners love these! Advanced.


* Here’s the spelling quiz that goes with it


* More than 500 words that are often mis-spelled. I bet your favourite mistakes are here. EVERYONE!

Click on the words for a definition and to hear the pronunciation.


* Here’s a quiz you can do to go with the page above. Very good if you lose marks for spelling


* OUP Vocab page with just the sort of things you need for topics from Lower to Advanced


* This whole website is for Phrasal Verbs. Start now!! Try the listenings which are especially designed to improve your knowledge of the horrible PVs. Also quizzes.


Here’s a quote from the site which I really agree with:

“You should avoid lists of the same verb with all the particles: put away, put by, put across, put down, put in, put on, put out and so on. This creates confusion. You may find this in many books, but there’s no logic, nothing to help you learn the verbs. It’s just a silly list of unrelated verbs that you will soon forget.”

* If you have always had trouble with Phrasal Verbs have a look at this page about how the prepositions in them work an what they mean. You might find it really helps. Especially important for Advanced students but everyone can get some help solving their problem with PVS here


* And finally,

Charles Kelly’s amazing a4esl.org website has masses of Vocabulary resources suitable for everyone from Lower level up..


Find them by:

Clicking on the links at the top of the page to JavaScript, Flash or html-only and choose the Vocabulary option in each case/


* I also recommend to all students that you use the “Vocabulary –Medium page here:


Scroll down it to find lots of exercises on Expressions and Phrasal Verbs. But everything else is good too!!

New addition:

Here’s a great page with 365 words which are unusual but actually quite commonly used. A few of these in a composition would impress any examiner. A nice resource for practising the “Say and Spell Out Loud” technique:


This is a link to a post I made with a great set of activities on Confusable Words – essential for any advanced students or people working on their spelling.



3 thoughts on “Vocabulary

  1. Pingback: Daily Words 1 « Passing English

  2. Pingback: Daily Words 18 « Passing English

  3. Pingback: Phrasal Verbs – Help at Last « Passing English

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