What do you call your Wordhord?

By Maeve Maddox

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English speakers use the word vocabulary to mean “a collection of words.“

We distinguish between “reading vocabulary” and “speaking vocabulary.” Teachers assign children “vocabulary lists,” that is, lists of unfamiliar or specialized subject words to learn.

Speakers of Old English referred to the words they knew as their “wordhord.” In OE poetry, a common expression meaning “He spoke” is “He unlocked his wordhord.” Those linguistic ancestors of ours saw vocabulary for the treasure that it is.

vocabulary: n. from Medieval Latin vocabuarius, “a list of words” from Latin vocabulum, “word, noun,” from Latin vocare, “to name.”
hoard: n. from OE hord, “treasure, valuable stock or store.”
treasure: n. from Old French tresor, “treasury, treasure.”
thesaurus: n. from Latin thesaurus, “treasure, treasure” from Greek thesauros, “a treasure, treasury, storehouse, chest.” The word thesaurarie was used as a title by early dictionary makers (1592). Roget put Thesaurus in the title of his reference book in 1852.
dictionary: n. from Medieval Latin dictionarium, “collection of words and phrases,” from Latin dictionarius, “of words,” from dictio, “word.

Some other word words:
verb: n. from Old French verbe, “part of speech that expresses action or being,” from Latin verbum, “a word.”
verbatim: adv. from Medieval Latin verbatim “word for word.”
verbose: adj., from Latin verbosus, “full of words.”
verbiage: n. from French verbiage “wordiness” from Medieval French verbier “to chatter.”

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4 Responses to “What do you call your Wordhord?”

  • Jay

    I have to be honest. I don’t separate my speaking (or spoken) and reading (or written) vocabularies; I don’t feel like I can. If I read a word and learn it, I attempt to use it in speech where appropriate. What do you think?

  • –Deb

    Ooh, I’ve never heard that, but I like it! What a fabulous synonym for “vocabulary.”

  • Ben

    You’ve omitted my favorite: lexicon. Nobody has put this word to better use than Karen Elizabeth Gordon. A couple of citations, both from The Well-Tempered Sentence:

    1. She winced at his response of such a gratuitous “Wow”: it said little for his seizure of her meaning and even less for his lexicon.

    2. “You are my darling, my d-a-r-l-i-n-g,” said the spelling master to his rapt and evasive pupil as he opened her eyes to a whole lexicon of shame.

  • prabha muthukrishnan

    Wordhord !
    Wow what a sophisticated word for “vocabulary”.

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