The people with the best vocabulary have a talent for reaching out in many directions at once to find new and useful words, and the skill to hold tight to these words and incorporate them into their active communication. One way these vocabulary experts are able to remember and correctly use words is by linking them and their definitions to images that help recall and understanding of the word. Today’s word lends itself well to imagery, and you can mentally link it to the first sentence in this paragraph as well: think of a monkey in a tree, using its tail to hold on to a branch as it balances forward reaching for a piece of ripe fruit. The monkey’s prehensile tail gives it an advantage over other animals, and lets it seek out the ripest fruit at the very tops of the trees.
Your vocabulary study will give you an advantage as well, helping you quickly grasp the meaning of the texts you read, and giving you the ability to rise above your competitors for a scholarship, job, or promotion. For the most effective vocabulary study, don’t forget to include these exercises:
Learn the definition and correct spelling of a word. Knowing a word won’t do you any good if you can’t use it effectively. This means that you’ll need to know how to correctly use the word in context, in both spoken and written communication. You’ll also need to remember how to spell the word, without relying on your computer’s spell-check program.
Look up the word’s history. By going into a word’s etymology, you’ll get a better understanding of the word’s meaning, and also learn how it’s related to other words, both of which will help you remember the word more easily. For example, the word prehensile comes from the Latin verb prehendere (“to grasp”). If you look up this root word, you’ll find that the words prize and comprehend both can be traced back to it. Linking these words together gives you more ways to remember the word: think about using a prehensile tail to grasp a prize; or think about how another way of saying that you comprehend something is “to grasp the situation” or “to get it.”
Be familiar with idioms and different ways of using the word. English is a very flexible language, and sometimes words aren’t used literally. If you hear someone say “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” it means that they’ve been completely surprised by learning something that they didn’t believe could be true. Something that’s “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” is very fun (or funny) indeed, and if you “throw a monkey wrench” into something you’re causing delay, difficulties, or failure of a project or plan.
Don’t monkey around now – get started on your vocabulary studies today!