Hard Words in English – 15 Proven Tips to be Conversant With Them

Last updated on March 11th, 2023 at 01:23 pm

“Hard words in English language – Ohh..! These are like nightmare to me.”

So screams Devina when I ask her about her TOEFL and IELTS performance.

See what she says, “I can’t mug up their meanings and get frequently confused with similar words like PROVOKE, REVOKE and EVOKE. Perhaps I forgot INVOKE. I don’t know what to do. O God!” 😫😫

This is not only Devina’s problem. This is a problem with many candidates who are going to appear competitive exams like CAT, TOEFL etc. And why only students and exam candidates? Even writers, columnists and the new breed – the bloggers, they all face this knotty problem.

So, what to do?

Below I prescribe 15 tips to enable you remember the meanings of hard words in English language.

If you understand these techniques properly and start to apply them in practice, I’m sure you won’t have to mug up the meanings of tough English words. Rather, you will be learning them quite naturally. Moreover, you need not make any extra effort to remember them.

Opening Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay


Why is it Important to Reinforce Your Vocabulary

✅ As most questions in a language test center around a basic understanding of the language, strong vocabulary helps you to be ready for the test. Also, in a competitive test, if you are better equipped with  vocabulary in comparison to others, you find more time  for preparation of other sections of the test like quantitative aptitude, data interpretation, syllogism etc.

✅ Secondly, I have observed that bloggers, writers, even reputed columnists are sometimes unable to use the perfectly contextual words in their writing. I believe this happens due to a lack of desire and interest to expand their vocabulary.

✅ Apart from this, budding writers are sometimes lethargically uninterested in using the most appropriate word. Smooth and regular expansion of word stock in your memory is essential to get rid of these demons.

Consider this:

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (From the poem “The Daffodils” by W.Wordsworth)

“SWAYING” would not have given the same effect as “FLUTTERING” to the movement of the daffodils in the great Wordsworth’s poem “THE DAFFODILLS”. Learn, as a writer, to use words that would exactly map your heart and mind on paper.

15 Tips to Remember the Meanings of Hard Words in English and Be Able to Use Them

  1. Read Extensively

    I set reading targets every year. Beginning 2020, I planned to read more and more, setting a target of 3 books every month. That is, altogether 36 books in the year (I read only 8 😁😂). However, I always end up underachieving by big margins.

    Though you might not hit the target, yet setting targets helps you read more. Needless to say, more and more reading helps you retain and use newer words and phrases.

  2. Use Indicators

    Do you know what “embezzlement” means? It means misappropriation of money belonging to someone else. Let’s try to use an indicator.

    We take ‘be’ from inside ’embezzlement’.

    ZZ- Let the two ZZs remind us as to what level has a person fallen – as low as Z? as low as two Zs? Oh! Shameful!

    So the indicator technique yields – Don’t “BE ZZ” indicating, “ Don’t be a person who can fall as low as two Zs”

    The tip says, “If you can allot a reasonable indicator, the word is yours.”

  3. Use New Words in Your Composition

    When you are trying to use new words in your composition, you have to recollect them, choose the most suitable ones and take care to use them as per correct part of speech. So, naturally retention is better.

    The trick says, always try to use different but most appropriate words in your articles and blog posts.

  4. Do Not Compromise on Choice of Words

    Let your words narrate accurately what you have in your mind. If you are compromising on this with a second or third choice, your word power will not get stronger at a rapid rate.

    For example, if you want to mean a fixed, vacant kind of look, then do not use ‘LOOK’. Rather use ‘STARE’.


    If you need to find rhyming words in English while writing poetry, find them however hard a job it is. When you are looking for a perfect word, it may occur to you that you are wasting time. Instead, I’d say, you are gaining future time by way of attaining expertise.

  5. Read What You Like Most

    How will you feel if you are very hungry and someone suddenly serves a plate of your favorite hot Biryani 🍛. I think there are fewer enticements greater than this. Under such circumstances, your body accepts the food most readily and pleasantly.

    The same happens when you are in a good reading mood and you get to read what you like most. You want to understand every word, every sentence, the visible and the implicit meanings.

    What I mean is, in order to learn new words most efficiently, you must read what is your most coveted subject. Read critics’ review of movies or products if you like that, poetry – if you find it irresistible and stories if they interest you most (Restrict yourself if nasty literature attracts you more….😏😏)

  6. Teach and Discuss Vocab and Set Question Papers

    It is a pre-condition that a teacher must have a good understanding of her chapter before she starts to teach her students. When you have to teach a new chapter, you’ll definitely, if you are a dedicated teacher, try to develop a complete understanding of the words, their meanings and usages thereof. Make teaching a boon for your students as well as yourself.

    Create Duolingo English Test vocabulary list, set English language question papers for your students fielding for them, vocabulary tests, word jumbles and puzzles, filling up gaps, crosswords etc.

  7. Join Active Forums That Discuss Words

    You’ll find ‘n’ number of groups and forums on the web where word lovers discuss words and have fun with them. Moreover, there are candidates for competitive exams who are preparing seriously for the tests. When you join them and their pursuits, you feel imbibing the knowledge of words a bit more speedily and more purposefully.

  8. Watch English Movies

    Watching English movies is a great way to learn new words and their native pronunciation. You also happen to learn slang and the related accent. Turn the subtitles off while watching these movies and try hard to understand the language as the actors speak. I bet you’ll progress very fast when you learn from the context and gestures.

  9. Read Novels Specially for Slang Words From Native Writers

    Having read John Grisham’s ‘The Reckoning’, I observed that I could gain  in about two weeks, the word  power that I would not have gathered in months through other sources. The advice, here is, read novels of legendary writers whenever time permits. I’d better have mentioned reading classical writers as well but I leave it to you, if you feel you’re game. Novels are a great source of learning slang words.

  10. Keep Challenging Yourself

    Many budding writers would have found it difficult to avoid repeating ‘but’, ‘however’ and ‘nonetheless’ in their articles. Still, you’ll be surprised to know as to how many forms of ‘but’ can be used. Look here: 👇👇














    ……………………….and counting…


    There are many more.

    So never feel there is a limit in English language. The limit comes into picture because of your not challenging yourself.

    Keep challenging your acumen to find more and more different and exciting ways to mean something.

  11. Read and Discuss Word Origins

    In Greek ‘An’ means ‘without’ and ‘aesthesis’ means ‘sensation’. This is how the word ‘anaesthesia’ has assumed its form. Though it is not possible to remember the meanings of all Latin and Greek words, we should try to understand and remember the meanings of some prefixes and suffixes that transform words. This really helps to strengthen one’s vocabulary.

    Example – se, supra, en, em, ject, tract etc.

  12. Learn a Word as Different Parts of Speech

    A real wordsmith wants to know a word in totality. This helps to use the word more and more in writing and speaking. For example, have a look below:

    Mimicry: The art of imitating someone. / The sarcastic mimicry performed by the actor pointed towards Mr. Davidson.

    Mimic (Noun): One who imitates others. / The mimic who lives in my neighborhood, is very good at copying great orators.

    Mimic (Verb): The act of imitating. / The labors mimicked the owner while he went for lunch.

  13. Enjoy Different Types of Words in English Language

    Do you know what a portmanteau is? It is a combination of two or more words. For example, BRUNCH = BREAKFAST + LUNCH.

    Have you heard about an anagram? It is a word or phrase that is made by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase.. For example, the letters of the word ‘RESCUE’ can be reshuffled to create another word ‘SECURE’.

    Similarly, a Palindrome is a word that spells same from both sides, forward and backward. For example, RADAR, MADAM, LEVEL, RACECAR etc.

    You should not stop. Go on discovering newer forms of words, newer types of sentences and keep playing with them. Your vocab power will shoot up as your love for the language increases.

  14. Fight Hard to Know Every Word That Comes Your Way

    Let a word that you encounter and don’t know about, make you uncomfortable. May be, while reading your first novel and the second one, you face this an umpteen number of times. Did you look up the word every time? Perhaps not.

    Make it a habit to refer the dictionary whenever you need it. Or at least, on most occasions. When you do this, your dictionary reference will go on reducing day by day. It may take some time but surely and certainly, you’ll be consulting the thesaurus lesser number of times.

  15. Try to Guess the Meaning From Context

    Sometimes, looking up the word may not be necessary at all. I mean, you can guess the meaning from the contextual position at that moment. For example, look at the following sentence:

    We went spellbound having seen the colossal structure that stood by the seaside.

    Here, the word ‘colossal’ speaks for itself. It indicates something of enormous or gigantic size.


Start to Apply These Tips

In the internet era, being a good writer could mean big time for you. Invest your time and money for a career in this field if you think you will give it a shot.

However, I have known people commenting that if one cannot become anything, then they can become a writer. I often reply, “Yes, no doubt, anyone can become a writer but you cannot guarantee finding readers to read and like your article or story.”

So, being a writer is not tough but try to become a good writer who will be followed by voracious readers and tell me if you find it easy.

The above implies that if you are serious about a career as a writer, you must be ready to spend your precious moments for honing your skills thereof. This, in turn, implies strengthening your vocabulary step by step, among other things.

So, start moving towards a vocab-friendly life. 👍🏾👍🏾