Building a Better Vocabulary

Watch Building a Better Vocabulary

  • 2015
  • 1 Season

"Building a Better Vocabulary" is an engaging and informative course that helps people of all ages and backgrounds learn how to expand their vocabulary and communicate more effectively. Presented by Kevin Flanigan, an experienced language teacher, this course is part of The Great Courses Signature Collection, an exclusive collection of high-quality educational programs designed to enrich students' knowledge and skills.

Throughout the 36 lectures of this course, Kevin takes students on a journey through the world of words, exploring the origins, meanings, and uses of various vocabulary items. The course is carefully structured to provide students with a gradual and systematic approach to vocabulary building, starting with the basics of word formation and moving on to more advanced techniques for understanding and using new words.

One of the key features of this course is its emphasis on active learning. Rather than just presenting students with lists of vocabulary items to memorize, Kevin encourages them to engage with the material in a variety of ways, such as:

- Analyzing the structure and meaning of words
- Identifying synonyms, antonyms, and other related words
- Using context clues to understand unfamiliar words
- Learning prefixes, suffixes, and roots that can help unlock the meanings of new words
- Practicing word pronunciation and usage in context

Another important aspect of this course is its focus on practical applications of vocabulary building. From academic writing to job interviews to everyday conversations, Kevin shows students how to use their new vocabulary skills to communicate more effectively and impressively in a range of situations.

Throughout the lectures, Kevin also provides fascinating insights into the history and evolution of the English language, revealing how today's vocabulary has been shaped by centuries of cultural, social, and technological change. Students will learn about the influence of Latin, Greek, and other classical languages on English, as well as the ways in which specialized vocabularies have emerged in fields such as science, technology, and business.

Finally, "Building a Better Vocabulary" is designed to be accessible and engaging to learners of all levels. Kevin's clear and lively teaching style, combined with the use of visual aids, quizzes, and other interactive tools, makes this course both informative and enjoyable. Whether you're a high school student looking to improve your SAT scores, a college graduate preparing for a career in law or medicine, or a lifelong learner interested in enhancing your communication skills, this course offers something for everyone.

In conclusion, "Building a Better Vocabulary" is a must-watch course for anyone interested in improving their vocabulary skills and becoming a more confident, effective communicator. With Kevin Flanigan as your guide, you'll discover new words, unlock their meanings, and learn how to use them in a range of contexts, setting you on a path to greater knowledge, success, and enjoyment of the English language.

Building a Better Vocabulary is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (36 episodes). The series first aired on January 30, 2015.

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Forgotten Words and Neologisms
36. Forgotten Words and Neologisms
January 30, 2015
In this final lecture of the course, travel back in time for some delicious words that Professor Flanigan believes deserve to be brought back to common usage. Then, explore neologisms, or new words that are coming into English every day, like meme, boson, and muggle.
More Foreign Loan Words
35. More Foreign Loan Words
January 30, 2015
Continue your study of foreign words that migrated to English. Encounter new and exciting words from French, German, and Spanish, and along the way, engage in a fun psycholinguistic experiment that shows how your brain processes language. By the end of this lecture, you'll have the mot juste for every situation.
Words English Borrowed and Never Returned
34. Words English Borrowed and Never Returned
January 30, 2015
English is notorious for being an omnivorous language. Substantially more than half of English vocabulary is from languages other than its Anglo-Saxon ancestor, Old English. Why do words get borrowed, and how do these words eventually settle in and become just as familiar as English ones? Find out here.
Building Vocabulary through Games
33. Building Vocabulary through Games
January 30, 2015
Start this lecture with some clever vocabulary games and activities that are not only fun to play, but will reinforce your word knowledge and ability to confidently use your new vocabulary words. Then, learn how you can leverage the power of context to improve your reading and writing vocabulary.
A Medley of New Words
32. A Medley of New Words
January 30, 2015
In this final grab bag lecture, learn a new word to describe partisan politics or views. Then, go beyond bang and shush and add some more sophisticated onomatopoeic words to your repertoire. Finally, a fun pop quiz helps you review some of the words you've learned in the last few lectures.
Spelling as a Vocabulary Tool
31. Spelling as a Vocabulary Tool
January 30, 2015
Review the three layers of information in the English spelling system: alphabet, pattern, and meaning. Delve into several studies done by Professor Flanigan and other literacy researchers to see how children acquire the ability to read English and what insights we can apply to your own acquisition of new words.
Words for the Really Big and the Very Small
30. Words for the Really Big and the Very Small
January 30, 2015
Is ginormous a real word? What's the difference between capacious and commodious? What are the two words Gulliver's Travels gave to English for big and small? Get answers to these questions and more in this lecture, where you'll also build words using the Latin roots magn and min.
Nasty Words and Nice Words
29. Nasty Words and Nice Words
January 30, 2015
Follow the intriguing evolution of the word nice, which originally meant ignorant or unaware. Then, dive into words for things and people that are nasty or nice. You'll find words to wish good health, to describe your favorite uncle, and to warn others about hidden sources of harm and downright poisonous people.
Specialty Words for Language
28. Specialty Words for Language
January 30, 2015
Over the years, linguists and language scholars have organized and categorized words in a number of different ways. In this lecture, explore many of these linguistic categories, including spoonerisms, phrases that give us a unique insight into how our minds plan out our speech.
Words for Words
27. Words for Words
January 30, 2015
Open the Bible to the book of Judges and read the story that spawned the word shibboleth, which is a test word, phrase, or custom that differentiates one group of people from another. Then, tease apart the fascinating differences between dialect, vernacular, and jargon.
A Vocabulary Grab Bag
26. A Vocabulary Grab Bag
January 30, 2015
Engage with some wonderful words that Professor Flanigan adores, but could not fit into the themes of the other lectures. This grab bag lecture is full of great vocabulary, including a useful phrase for describing a "take it or leave it" situation.
Words for Killing and Cutting
25. Words for Killing and Cutting
January 30, 2015
Turn to dark words to discuss terrible deeds. The Latin word caedo, meaning, "to cut" or "to kill," is at the root of many of these words, such as genocide and homicide. Learn a unique word that refers to both the crime and its perpetrator, then focus on words that stem from the root seg/sect, meaning, "to cut."
Reviewing Vocabulary through Literature
24. Reviewing Vocabulary through Literature
January 30, 2015
Take stock of your accomplishments thus far with a review like no other! In this lecture, you will be able to test your knowledge by relating the words you have learned to some of the most colorful characters in literature, as written by Oscar Wilde, Moliere, James Joyce, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others.
Words for Courage and Cowardice
23. Words for Courage and Cowardice
January 30, 2015
You likely know that the word courage comes from the Latin cor/cord, meaning heart. Explore words for different kinds of courage, including false courage, cheeky courage, and reckless courage. Then study the flip side with words about cowardice. This fun lecture skips from Latin to Yiddish to Middle French to Old Italian!
Cranky Words and Cool Words
22. Cranky Words and Cool Words
January 30, 2015
What's the difference between someone who is irascible, one who is testy, and another who is dyspeptic? What about the difference between stoic and stolid? Professor Flanigan's stories from his childhood and from pop culture vividly illustrate the new words you'll learn here.
Some High-Utility Greek and Latin Affixes
21. Some High-Utility Greek and Latin Affixes
January 30, 2015
Add some powerful Greek and Latin affixes to your vocabulary notebook. Explore intriguing etymologies for words like abdicate (which originally had nothing to do with royalty) and antediluvian (a word with ties to the Bible that got a new lease on life). Don't absquatulate now, there are more great words to come!
Words That Break and Words That Join
20. Words That Break and Words That Join
January 30, 2015
Using the Latin roots rupt and junct, create a list of words related to breaking and joining. Discover the fascinating subject of Janus words such as cleave, which means to split apart and to stick close together. Finally, explore a variety of words that describe groups or gatherings of people.
Words for the Diligent and the Lazy
19. Words for the Diligent and the Lazy
January 30, 2015
From polished professionals to slothful slackers, this lecture covers a wide range of words to describe work ethic. Dig into the nuances that separate similar words like tenacious and pertinacious. Expand your knowledge of the Latin root fac (to make or do) to include alternate spellings and a useful suffix.
Thinking, Teaching, and Learning Words
18. Thinking, Teaching, and Learning Words
January 30, 2015
Begin with a fun psycholinguistic experiment that shows how your brain processes new words. Explore the work of some major scholars of learning and language - Skinner, Watson, Chomsky - and get an exegesis of erudition. Delve into the process of language acquisition, including why a child might say, "I winned the game, Daddy!"
Eponyms from Literature and History
17. Eponyms from Literature and History
January 30, 2015
Step back in time and learn about words inspired by the great men, women, and places of literature and history. English is replete with a host of lively eponyms, such as bloomers, sideburns, and sandwich. In this utterly enjoyable lecture, the professor shares the people and stories behind eight excellent eponyms.
Words for Praise, Criticism, and Nonsense
16. Words for Praise, Criticism, and Nonsense
January 30, 2015
Continue your study with a useful word that describes the verbal equivalent of meandering. Then, turn to the Bible for a word derived from the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, who prophesied the imminent downfall of the Kingdom of Judah. Finally, discover a word for playful banter that English borrowed from French.
Words for the Way We Talk
15. Words for the Way We Talk
January 30, 2015
Study the fascinating stories behind words that describe how we speak - from the laconic Spartans to the pithy Jedi master to the loquacious ventriloquist. At the end of the lecture, return to Greece for the story behind a word inspired by the Athenian orator Demosthenes and his opinions about King.
Words Relating to Belief and Trust
14. Words Relating to Belief and Trust
January 30, 2015
Turn now to precise and powerful words for facets of trust and belief. Study words that have their roots in the church, but have expanded their reach into other areas of life. Use your knowledge of Greek roots to show the difference in the belief of an apostle (stellein) and an apostate (stenai).
High-Frequency Greek and Latin Roots
13. High-Frequency Greek and Latin Roots
January 30, 2015
Power up your "morphological radar" and gain the ability to spot Latin and Greek word parts in unfamiliar words, aiding you in uncovering their definitions. Investigate words using the affixes eu-, dis-, in-, pre-, post-, and dys-; then, turn to words that build from the roots man, umbr, tract, and therm.
Humble Words and Prideful Words
12. Humble Words and Prideful Words
January 30, 2015
Transition into the next lecture with a story about Odysseus and his hubris. Then, explore other words about people who think too much or too little about themselves, including a fascinating word that has a positive connotation when it refers to a voice, but a negative connotation when it refers to speech or writing.
Words from Gods and Heroes
11. Words from Gods and Heroes
January 30, 2015
Forge a link between the tales of Greek and Roman gods and heroes and the English vocabulary words they inspired. What is the difference between a herculean task and a Sisyphean one? What Gordian knots do you have in your life? This lecture full of ancient myths is a true delight!
Words for the Everyday and the Elite
10. Words for the Everyday and the Elite
January 30, 2015
Will you be hobnobbing with the hoity-toity gentry or the hoi polloi? Gain even more words to enrich your vocabulary when it comes to describing things that are ho-hum and others that are high class. You'll even learn a useful synonym for trite remarks, hackneyed phrases, and platitudes.
Words Expressing Fear, Love, and Hatred
9. Words Expressing Fear, Love, and Hatred
January 30, 2015
Agoraphobia. Xenophobia. Claustrophobia. Begin this lecture with words that describe fear. Then, using the Greek root phil/phile and the Latin root amor, build words relating to love. Finally, embrace your inner misanthrope with words about hatred, which spring from the Greek verb misein.
Words for Beginnings and Endings
8. Words for Beginnings and Endings
January 30, 2015
Go beyond Latin to learn a word for inexperience that has its roots in Old English. Distinguish between people who are innocent and naive, new to a skill, or pretending to know more than they do. Then, turn to words for endings, and learn why we say "immortal," and not "inmortal."
Wicked Words
7. Wicked Words
January 30, 2015
Use the Latin prefix mal to generate over a dozen rich vocabulary words, all of which concern things that are bad, evil, or done poorly. Then, learn a fun, albeit archaic, term of contempt, and get a firm understanding of the difference between invidious and insidious.
Going beyond Dictionary Meanings
6. Going beyond Dictionary Meanings
January 30, 2015
How can you ensure that new words don't slip from your memory? In this lecture, Professor Flanigan shares effective and fun strategies to reinforce your vocabulary knowledge, including a clever graphic organizer that anchors your new word to words you already know, and a game designed by a leading expert in reading and vocabulary.
Fighting Words and Peaceful Words
5. Fighting Words and Peaceful Words
January 30, 2015
English is replete with lively, hard-hitting words to describe conflict and harmony. Delve into the morphology and etymology of words relating to war and peace, including examining two high-utility Latin roots, bell and pac. Add some pugnacious words to your everyday lexicon, including melee, contumacious, and donnybrook.
Words That Express Annoyance and Disgust
4. Words That Express Annoyance and Disgust
January 30, 2015
Turn now to annoying people and their irksome, vexing, irritating, nettlesome, and exasperating behavior. Tease apart the differences between words that use the Latin root quir/ques, and those that spring from the word queror. Then, study words that describe excess - from sickly sweet, sappy, and sentimental words to downright offensive and disgusting ones.
Words for Lying, Swindling, and Conniving
3. Words for Lying, Swindling, and Conniving
January 30, 2015
Begin building your vocabulary in earnest with this lecture on wonderful words to describe liars and the lies they tell. Learn trenchant words to describe the cheats, swindlers, charlatans, scam artists, barracudas, sharks, and sharpies, and their hustles, flimflams, and double-dealings. Reveal the nuances of meaning between similar words like specious and spurious.
The Spelling-Meaning Connection
2. The Spelling-Meaning Connection
January 30, 2015
Unlock the English language's powerful morphological system with a concept known as the spelling-meaning connection, and see how our spelling system makes a lot more sense than you may have originally thought. Then, learn how to create a vocabulary notebook that effectively organizes all the words you will learn in this course for best recall.
Five Principles for Learning Vocabulary
1. Five Principles for Learning Vocabulary
January 30, 2015
Toss aside the rote memorization of childhood and explore the cognitive science behind the five core principles of effective vocabulary learning: definition, context, connections, morphology, and semantic chunking. Through interactive examples, see how you can improve your ability to remember the definition of a new word or a long list of familiar terms.
Where to Watch Building a Better Vocabulary
Building a Better Vocabulary is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Building a Better Vocabulary on demand at Apple TV Channels, Amazon Prime, Amazon and Hoopla.
  • Premiere Date
    January 30, 2015