Advanced Vocabulary
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This unit will look at ways we can widen the vocabulary we
use, particularly in relation to analysing texts, such as
novels, plays and poetry.
How can we widen our vocabulary?
reading as much as we can
exploring the roots of language, to help us
understand any new words that we come across
using a dictionary and thesaurus.
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A changing language
Languages constantly change.
The words that we use change over time, as new and
different words come into ‘common usage’.
The way that we pronounce words changes.
The grammatical structures of the language change.
The way that we punctuate our writing changes.
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A changing language
Why does language change over time?
Use the brainstorm below to write down some of your ideas.
We need to find new
words to describe
new things, e.g. the
Historically, invaders
have brought their
own languages
with them, changing
English in the process.
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As we make contact
with other cultures, we
discover new words.
Young people invent
new slang words
which often come into
common usage.
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Young people play a big part in changing their language,
particularly through the development of slang words.
Eventually, some of these words are accepted into the
mainstream language, and become part of our vocabulary.
How many commonly used slang words can you
think of?
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Why do you think young people use slang and
constantly invent new slang words?
Slang is almost like a secret code – at first only a few
people know what the words mean. Because of this, slang
can be used to prevent other people, particularly adults,
from understanding a conversation.
New words are constantly being invented, because they
keep slang exclusive.
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A brief history of English
449 A.D.
The Anglo-Saxons bring ‘English’ to Britain. They speak
a Germanic type language. The Celts, natives of Britain,
are forced into Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.
Old English words include: tooth, earth, sheep.
597 A.D.
Christianity comes to Britain, and some Latin words are
introduced into the language.
Latin words include: angel, candle, priest.
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A brief history of English
737 A.D. onwards
The Vikings, who speak ‘Old Norse’ invade the North.
Their language was Germanic, with similar roots to that
of the Anglo-Saxons.
Old Norse words include: sky, window, awkward.
1066 A.D.
The Normans invade England, speaking a type of
French, and many new words related to Government
and culture are introduced.
Norman words include: evidence, tower, venison.
The Viking and Norman invasions led to Middle English.
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A brief history of English
1490 - 1650
During the Renaissance, there was a great interest in
learning. Many Greek and Latin words came into use.
Greek words include: topic, cosmos.
Latin words include: genius, premium.
Exploration of, and trade with, the ‘New World’ led to
contact with the Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese. Many
words from these languages were adopted.
Spanish words include: sherry, cargo.
From about 1500 onwards, Modern English replaced
Middle English.
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A brief history of English
18th Century onwards
The colonisation of countries such as Australia, India and
Africa led to many new words entering our vocabulary.
‘Colonial’ words include: pyjama, gymkhana, jodhpur.
20th - 21st Century
A huge increase in communication and technology. Many
words have been ‘borrowed’ from other languages, e.g.
‘glasnost’. New technologies require new words to
describe them.
Technological words include: Internet, e-mail.
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Language and culture
As we have seen, the English language ‘borrows’ many
words from other cultures, and these words quickly
become a part of our language.
Since the recent increases in communications technology,
English is becoming seen as the ‘global language’ - a
language that the majority of people can use to
Look at the words on the next slide. Drag and drop them
into the box labelled with the country they come from.
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Drag and drop
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Using a dictionary
Using a dictionary properly will help expand
your vocabulary, whether you are using it to
check how to spell a word, or looking up the
meaning of a word you do not yet know.
Every year, as new words enter our vocabulary, dictionary
writers have to decide exactly what to include. They also
have to exclude words that have gone out of common usage,
so that the English language is constantly evolving.
As well as telling you how to spell a word, and its meaning or
meanings, a dictionary may also tell what type of word it is,
(i.e. noun, verb, etc.), the different forms in which it might be
used, and how it should be pronounced. An etymological
dictionary will also explain the roots of the word.
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Using a dictionary
earth n. the
planet on
which the
human race
lives; soil that
can be dug
from the
ground; part of
electric circuit.
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The word that
is going to be
The type of
word, in this
case ‘n’ stands
for noun.
Definitions of
the word.
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Using a thesaurus
A thesaurus gives you a variety of synonyms – different
words that have the same meaning. A thesaurus can be
particularly useful when you are writing an essay or a
creative piece, because it will help you to avoid using the
same words repeatedly. However, do be careful to use the
correct word in the correct context when finding synonyms
- always check in a dictionary if you are not sure!
As well as using a ‘hard copy’ thesaurus, you might also
like to work with the thesaurus on your computer, which
can usually be found under the ‘tools’ function. Using a
thesaurus is a great way to widen your vocabulary.
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Using a thesaurus
Use a thesaurus to make the piece of writing below
much more interesting.
It was a dark, cold night and the storm had been blowing
for hours without stopping. Sam looked out of the window
at the dark night sky. Would this storm ever end? And
would her brother get home safely?
Here is just one way that you might have changed it.
It was a gloomy, bitter night and the storm had been
blustering for hours without ceasing. Sam gazed out of
the window at the ominous night sky. Would this tempest
ever finish? And would her brother get home unscathed?
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Using a thesaurus
You need to be careful when using a thesaurus. As you
might have noticed, although the piece of description on the
previous slide sounded more interesting, it also sounded
rather overblown and melodramatic!
So, when using a thesaurus, take care:
not to over-write, using too many long or excessively
descriptive words.
to use the synonyms you find in the correct context. Words
can have several different meanings, and you should
always check in a dictionary if you are not sure of the
correct definition.
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Descriptive writing model
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Writing to describe
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General vocabulary
Do you know what these words mean? Learn their
spellings and then put each word into a sentence.
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Commonly misspelt
‘Advanced’ words
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Literary vocabulary
These are words that you might use when writing about
literature. Do you know what they all mean?
Learn their spellings and put each word into a sentence.
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Vocabulary game
Now it’s time to have some fun with language. We’re going to
play a vocabulary game. Here are the instructions:
You should work in small groups of about four people.
Each group will be given a word and its definition. These
are real words, but you will probably not have heard them
before! Keep the true definition secret so that only your
group knows it.
In turn, each member of the group gives the class a
definition of ‘their’ word. Make your definitions sound as
realistic as possible.
The other groups have to guess who is giving the correct
definition. If they guess right, they get one point. If no one
guesses the right answer, the group giving the definitions
get two points.
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Vocabulary game
First, let’s look at an example to show you how the game
works. Here is the word:
And here are four definitions to choose from. Is it a ...
Kind of toga worn
by female Romans.
Female slave in
a Turkish harem.
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Type of ancient
Greek sculpture.
Dance performed
by French slaves.
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Vocabulary game
And the correct answer? An
is a ...
Female slave in
a Turkish harem.
Did you guess right? Remember, you can make your
definitions much longer and more interesting.
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Vocabulary game
Now you are going to have to be very honest if the game is
going to work properly! Your teacher will tell you as each
group’s word appears on the board, so make sure you close
your eyes until you are told to open them.
When it is your group’s turn, open your eyes, write down the
word and the real definition. When everyone has their words,
you can start making up your false definitions, ready to start
There are lots of words here, so you should be able to have
more than one go at giving your definitions, or you could
always find your own in a dictionary. Make sure that your
definitions are interesting, but at the same time try to make
them sound realistic enough to fool your classmates!
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Vocabulary game
Being ‘glabrous’ means that you have smooth skin.
‘Porphyry’ is a kind of rock that has crystals in it.
A ‘ratel’ is a South African honey badger.
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Vocabulary game
A ‘gammer’ is a country word for an old woman.
‘Mechlin’ is a kind of Belgian lace.
A ‘puttee’ is a cloth wrapped round the leg to make a
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Vocabulary game
A ‘shawm’ is a musical instrument like an oboe.
A ‘witenagemot’ was a council meeting in AngloSaxon times.
The ‘ogham’ is the ancient British and Irish alphabet.
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Vocabulary game
A ‘reredos’ is a decorated screen behind an altar.
‘Hodden’ is a type of coarse cloth.
The ‘myall’ is a type of Australian tree.
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Advanced Vocabulary