How Fancy Is Your Vocabulary?

By June 16, 2010 culture, language No Comments

For all my fellow word-lovers out there, here’s a list of 50 fancy words compiled by the New York Times.

How did these words make the list?

Well, the NYT has some dandy technology that allows its online readers to click upon an unfamiliar word within its articles to quickly learn of its definition. And that technology tracks which words are clicked upon most. Since the start of 2010, these 50 words are the ones most readers needed some help in grasping, words like obduracy and desultory and inchoate.

I decided to tally my own knowledge of these words, placing them into one of three categories:

Known—words I’ve seen or heard before and could describe the meaning
Familiar but Fuzzy—words I’ve heard before and could take a guess at the meaning
Unknown—words I’ve never seen or heard before

As I worked through the list, I grew increasingly disappointed. My tally confirmed what I already knew: I may love words, but my vocabulary is weak. [Sigh.] Here are my results:

Known: 6
Familiar but Fuzzy: 10
Unknown: 34

Despite my poor showing, I loved reading this list—there are so many words to grow into! I was inspired to look up each word and develop flashcards. Now, I’ve heard the best way to expand your vocabulary is to read: what sweet training that would be. Perhaps I’ll start reading the New York Times?

Did you make your own tally? Do share!

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