AskDefine | Define vocabulary

Dictionary Definition



1 a listing of the words used in some enterprise
2 a language user's knowledge of words [syn: lexicon, mental lexicon]
3 the system of techniques or symbols serving as a means of expression (as in arts or crafts); "he introduced a wide vocabulary of techniques"

User Contributed Dictionary



vocabularium, vocabularius: vocabulaire. See vocable.



  1. A usually alphabetized and explained collection of words e.g. of a particular field, or prepared for a specific purpose, often for learning.
  2. The collection of words a person knows and uses.
    My Russian vocabulary is very limited.
  3. The stock of words used in a particular field.
    The vocabulary of social sciences is often incomprehensible to ordinary people.
  4. The words of a language collectively.
    The vocabulary of any language is influenced by contacts with other cultures.

Coordinate terms


list of words
  • Czech: slovník
  • Dutch: woordenlijst
  • Finnish: sanasto
  • Hungarian: szójegyzék
  • Japanese: 語彙集
set of words a person knows
  • Afrikaans: woordeskat
  • Czech: slovní zásoba
  • Dutch: woordenschat
  • Finnish: sanavarasto
  • Hungarian: szókincs
  • Japanese: 語彙
stock of words used in a particular field
words of a language collectively

Extensive Definition

The vocabulary of a person is defined either as the set of all words that are understood by that person or the set of all words likely to be used by that person when constructing new sentences.
Tests of vocabulary are integral components of intellectual assessment within psychology. Level of vocabulary has been consistently found to predict overall level of intellectual functioning as well as educational achievement.

English Vocabulary

It is widely circulated that the English language has the largest vocabulary of any language, but this claim is difficult to formulate precisely, and essentially impossible to prove.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists a total of 171,476 words with an additional 47,156 obsolete and 9,500 derivative words as subentries, giving almost a quarter of a million words in the English language, even when technical terms, place names and multiple word senses are excluded. Clearly, therefore, any individual's vocabulary must necessarily consist of only a small subset of the total possible vocabulary of the language. One estimate, by David Crystal, is that the average college graduate has an active vocabulary of 60,000 words and an additional passive vocabulary of 75,000 words.

The Vocabularies of Other Languages

  • The three major Japanese dictionaries each contain between 220,000 and 240,000 individual lexical entries (words).
  • The mainland Chinese Hanyu Dacidian dictionary and the Taiwanese Zhongwen Dacidian each list about 370,000 words for the Mandarin Chinese language.

Other uses

The word "vocabulary" is also used figuratively in the arts or crafts for qualities or techniques distinctive to a particular style, especially in the context of architectural style.


vocabulary in Afrikaans: Woordeskat
vocabulary in German: Wortschatz
vocabulary in Spanish: Vocabulario
vocabulary in Basque: Berbategi
vocabulary in Persian: دایره لغات
vocabulary in Indonesian: Kosakata
vocabulary in Italian: Lessico
vocabulary in Hebrew: אוצר מילים
vocabulary in Dutch: Woordenschat
vocabulary in Japanese: 語彙
vocabulary in Polish: Słownictwo
vocabulary in Portuguese: Vocabulário
vocabulary in Quechua: Rimay taqi
vocabulary in Simple English: Vocabulary
vocabulary in Slovak: Slovná zásoba
vocabulary in Swedish: Ordförråd
vocabulary in Yiddish: וואקאבולאר

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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