Vocabulary Building

The difference between the words “boil” and “broil” may seem like only one letter. But for a chef, they describe very different cooking techniques that, depending on when they are used, could result in a masterpiece or burnt offerings. Increasing your vocabulary and knowing the meanings of words is important no matter what you do. Whether you are a technical writer explaining a complex procedure or a sports commentator describing a double play, words are essential tools for effective communication. Learn how to expand your vocabulary and explore the origins and meanings of words through these direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site:

Level 1

Wild World of Words Challenges: “Tea” and “tee” are examples of homonyms--words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Explore the sounds, spellings and meanings of words through 16 activities.


Word Central: Get acquainted with new words through the Daily Buzzword, try out online dictionaries and word experiments, and join other students as they create a dictionary of useful new words--such as the verb “topehaca,” which means to eat ice cream while washing the car and feeding the cat.

Fake Out! The Definition Guessing Game: A “gam” is a herd of whales and a “yurt” is a round tent, but what does it mean to be “brobdingnagian”? Discover words wonderful and weird as you learn their meanings in this game.


Level 2

Newspapers in Education: Building Your Vocabulary: Some techniques for helping you to learn the meanings of unfamiliar words are to examine the context of the word and to look for synonyms, explanations and helpful details. Learn how to use these strategies through some examples and activities that can help you increase your vocabulary.

Merriam Webster’s Word Puzzles: The English language is full of words from other countries; a familiarity with Latin or Greek can be helpful in figuring out many scientific or medical terms. Try some games that introduce you to the foreign origins of common words as well as test your knowledge of synonyms, antonyms and definitions. Try some puzzles that can help you improve your vocabulary and increase your knowledge in other areas, such as learning election terms in a cartoon format or exploring the California Gold Rush. This site also offers help with the SAT.

Level 3


A. Word. A. Day: Did you know that “dormitory” is an anagram for “dirty room”? Learn a new word every day through this site that provides a word’s pronunciation, definitions, various uses and its history, as well as some links for exploring the world of words.

Dillon’s Online Vocabulary Tests: The history of a word can be traced to a specific country and sometimes even to a specific time period. Measure your vocabulary through this series of tests, which range from foreign words to master quizzes of unusual and uncommon words.

Kaplan: Build Your Vocabulary: Nervous about the SAT? This collection of resources includes online flash cards, quizzes and a daily brain teaser.,1898,990,00.html


The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.


From what language does the word “dictionary” come from?

CLUE: See the Student Dictionary on Word Central.

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point now covers more than 100 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week’s Quest: The domain name in a URL tells the computer where to send the request.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children’s use of the Internet. This column was designed by Ana Angel, Bonnie Jinkens, Karen Logan and Anna Manring.