MBA Preparation / #Grammar

April 04, 2017 @ 01:15 PM

April 04, 2017 @ 01:15 PM

K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai

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Etymology of Vocabulary

An impeccable speaker

Published: Wednesday, 13 July, 2016 10:00 AM

Etymology of Vocabulary

A wide range of vocabulary is the distinguishing feature of an impeccable speaker. An adroit speaker will boast off an expansive range of vocabulary, which means that he/ she will have multiple words and expressions to replace a particular word or expression. Limited vocabulary skills can cripple your expression significantly. Vocabulary, in its wide sense, is the term used to denote the collection of words used in a particular language. At the individual level, it is the body of words known to an individual person. 

Etymology of ‘vocabulary’

The origins of the word ‘vocabulary’ goes back to mid sixteenth century and can be traced to medieval Latin and Latin roots. The word ‘vocabulary’ comes from the Latin ‘vocabularium’, which means ‘a list of words’. It also has Latin roots, the word ‘vocabulum’, which means ‘word, name, noun’, the root ‘vocare’, which means ‘to name, call’. From these words, the English word ‘ vocable ’ arose. The word ‘vocabl’ itself forms the root of several other words, such as, ‘irrevocable’ and ‘unequivocably’.    


First used in the 1500s to mean a list of words with explanations, ‘ vocabulary ’ came to refer to the  range of words in the language of a person or a group about two hundred years later.Vocabulary, in the common sense of the word, is the total number of words that a person makes use of or can make use of, either in the spoken or written form. By this definition, vocabulary can be segregated into two parts: 

a. Active Vocabulary

An active vocabulary is made up of words often and spontaneously used and clearly understood by an individual when speaking and writing. It comprises words which an individual uses frequently and readily. A person with an excellent active vocabulary will be more confident and impressive as he/ she will have the words to express his/ her thoughts precisely and assertively. The individual knows and is confident about the meanings of the words in his/ her active vocabulary.

b. Passive Vocabulary

Passive vocabulary comprises words that an individual is familiar with and recognises but rarely uses when speaking or writing. This happens when the person does not get the require platform to use the words in his/ her passive vocabulary or the situation does not demand those words. An average individual’s passive vocabulary will contain more words than active vocabulary. The challenge for such an individual is to transfer words in his/ her passive vocabulary to active vocabulary.

An expansive vocabulary plays an important part in the professional world. One of the best ways of memorising new words is through etymology or studying the roots of words, as most of the words in English, vocabulary including, come from Greek and Latin roots.

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