Vocabulary (voh-kab-yuh-ler-ee) -noun, plural = laries
The stock of words used by or known to a particular people or group of persons: His Spanish vocabulary is limited. Technical vocabulary is always expanding.
A list or collection of the words or phrases of a language, technical field, etc., usually arranged in alphabetical order and defined: Study the vocabulary in the third chapter of your textbook.
The words of a language
Any collection of signs or symbols constituting a means or system of nonverbal communication: vocabulary of a computer
Any more or less specific group of forms characteristic of an artist, a style of art, architecture, or the like
[origin: ML vocabularium, n. use of neut. of vocabularius of words, equiv. to L vocabul(um) or "word" + arius or "pertaining to"]
As a young student, I was once given a large hardcover children's dictionary. It was full of brightly colored pictures and had about twenty words per page. I was fascinated by the book and spent hours reading the definitions. Later on, I read quite a bit and thus gained a decent familiarity with words. Occasionally I would ask my mother the question, "What does this word mean?" And she would invariably answer, "Go look it up!" Sometimes I followed through and did, but mostly my lazy side would win out and I wouldn't bother to look up the meaning. While I did have spelling exercises, and I was usually required to look up the definitions of the words on my spelling lists, that was pretty much the extent of my formal vocabulary training. That background has proven to be perfectly adequate for my daily life, but it was a haphazard approach to vocabulary.
By contrast, a number of my friends learned Latin as children—or at least learned Latin and Greek roots. There have been several instances when we have together come across words that we didn't know. I had to search for a dictionary to look it up; they were able to make an educated guess at the meaning of the word, saying, "that root means this, and this root means that, so the word must mean something like..." How I covet that skill!
To be sure, we'll function just fine without learning word roots. In our modern age of computers and the Internet, we have dictionaries galore at our fingertips, and can quickly find the meaning of a word if we need it. But with so much of the English language derived from classical roots (many other languages are, too!), it seems wise to pursue knowledge of those roots. Therefore, nearly all the curricula we carry are root-based.
The main exception to this is the Wordly Wise 3000 series, which teaches a carefully selected list of 3,000 words culled from current popular literature and high-stakes tests.