How Effective Is Reading The Dictionary To Improve Vocabulary?

We all wish to speak fluently and clearly. The truth is, this all depends on our Knowledge of the language and the quality of our vocabulary.

Reading is one way that we can develop our vocabulary. The constant exposure to words can certainly make an impact on our understanding.

For example, constructing sentences in any language requires you to understand the various rules of the grammar in the particular language.

This knowledge can then guide and give you an understanding of the language.

One question that I came across recently was inquiring into whether a dictionary can be an effective way to develop vocabulary. This post will therefore discuss this.

But before we get into this, let’s have a definition of vocabulary.

Vocabulary is simply the body of words that are used in a language.

With that said, How effective is reading the dictionary to improve vocabulary?

Reading the dictionary is actually one of the best ways to improve your vocabulary. This is why most language experts will advise you to read books as well as use the dictionary to find the meaning of words that you don’t understand. Referring to a dictionary can improve your vocabulary while reading books can help improve both grammar and vocabulary.

With that said, you can easily figure out that a dictionary is essential for good vocabulary and it is worth it to use one whenever you need a good schooling or refresher course in vocabulary.

Let’s get into some ways in which you can use the dictionary to improve vocabulary.

Meaning tool

When trying to improve or learn vocabulary, you’ll obviously jump through a lot of hoops.

If you’re relying on people that know the language, you’ll need to get ahold of them so they can teach you certain words.

If you’re relying on a class, you’ll need to find the best teacher with whom you can connect.

Both these situations can make it hard for you to learn the vocabulary of any language if you don’t apply yourself.

Learning the nitty gritty of a language is not like learning a concept or a simple rule. Things like vocabulary involve a lot… and to learn these things, you have to take it upon yourself to find the best tools out there.

Which is why a dictionary can be a great tool that can help you in finding new words and getting their meaning.

Its good to combine a dictionary with a book. Preferably a novel with a wide variety of words.

This can help you improve and vocabulary more thoroughly.

Spelling tool

Learning the meanings of words is great and most people can easily know and understand the basic words in most languages.

Every language has basic words that are less complex compared to the more deeper and important words.

For example, the English language has some basic words like : is, but, what, how, there, are, you etc..

Of course these are just some of the basic words and they don’t necessarily cover the entire landscape of the English language but they give us context.

Most basic words are the easiest and most used words in any language.

These are words that you’ll likely run into the first time you start learning a new language.

As you go on to learn the language however, you’ll meet the more complex words that are more useful.

Understanding them can be a battle but spelling them can even be harder.

The dictionary therefore is a tool that can help you learn and practice spellings so you can easily improve your vocabulary.

Grammatical information

Improving vocabulary is not only about you learning a bunch of words in a language.

Anyone can do that and the fact is, there’s more to every language than vocabulary.

The vocabulary may provide the means to understand a language but something more important creates the structure around every word.

Grammar is what creates structure around words in any language.

It is a set of rules that are to be followed in order to use the language as it is intended to be used.

Dictionaries are a great place to pick up some Grammatical information because they offer meanings for words as well as context in which they’re used.

Parts of speech

Vocabulary provides the pieces necessary for a language while grammar provides context.

Something even more important in learning a language and understanding vocabulary are what called the parts of speech.

Parts of speech are a category to which a word is assigned in accordance with its syntactic functions. In English the main parts of speech are noun, pronoun, adjective, determiner, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.

These categories are necessary to understand grammar and vocabulary better which is why a dictionary can be a helpful tool in improving your knowledge of these categories.


The dictionary can also point you toward certain subjects in which certain words are applicable. This is important in understanding context as well as specific application of words.

We all know that words in any language are used very specifically and are chosen very diligently.

This is done to ensure that all parts of speech are used in the correct way.

Learning vocabulary without a dictionary

Below are some ways in which you can learn and improve vocabulary without relying on a dictionary.

Use context

Using context is a very effective way of getting into the nitty gritty details of the meanings behind words.

The way in which words are used in every language is a reflection of the rules that grammar dictate.

Which means words are used following an order while abiding to a certain structure.

To be able to improve or learn vocabulary you have to read books or any material and try to understand the words.

You can understand the meaning of certain words by taking a lot at where they’re used in sentences as well as the context surrounding the words (such as how they’re used).

The way in which words are used can make it pretty easy for you to know and understand what they mean.

Continue reading

This is something that most people struggle with when they come across difficult words.

People, especially those that are new to a language will easily get attached to words and their meanings and this can greatly affect how they read.

The best way to understand difficult words when they’re used in a sentence is to continue reading.

As you continue reading your brain will make connections and context will come to you naturally.

In most situations it can be easy to figure out the meaning of a word when you finish reading the whole sentence or paragraph in which it is used.


You also have the option of asking people that know the language whenever you find yourself stuck on a word.

Of course this can be a challenge when you can’t get ahold of anyone that knows the language.

However, if you can find somebody that knows the language. they can help you understand the meaning behind words as well as give you some tips on vocabulary.

Use the Internet

The Internet is another great place from which you can figure out the meaning of words easily.

All you have to do is run a search of the word that you’re having difficulty understanding.

You’ll find the meaning of the word in under a minute.

Is it possible to learn every word in the dictionary?

Unless you have an out-of-this world mind and memory, it’s not easy to learn every word in the dictionary.

However,  people with an eidetic memory can learn every word in the dictionary and actually remember all of them.

Related Articles You Should Read

Can Reading Books Improve Your English?

What Is The Highest Form Of Learning?

Can Reading Improve Communication Skills?

Additional Helpful Resources

How to use a dictionary to learn new words when reading – English Live

Dictionary Use and Vocabulary Learning – Academic Op

The efficacy of dictionary use while reading for learning

Using a Dictionary – Reading and Study Strategies – Research EWU

Effects of Reading Strategy and Dictionary – SciELO Colombia