I’m interested in building up my English vocabulary, but whenever I look for “difficult English words” or “advanced vocabulary” I’m presented with a list of polysyllabic words such as: aberration, abhor, acquiesce, amiable, appease, arcane, avarice, etc.

Being a Spaniard, I found all these mostly Latin-rooted words quite easy. The difficult words for me are the monosyllabic ones with Old English or Germanic roots, such as: bask, botch, dun, garble, goon, helm, knit, knoll, lath, lye, muck, pry, quell, slat, swig, stump, tussle, wan, whet, etc.

Do you know of any Internet resources devoted to vocabulary building but centered in words of this kind? I haven’t been able to find one. Or do you have any idea about how I should proceed?

I’m sure most native speakers of Romance languages share this problem.

  • 1
    You might want to look for a list of FALSE cognates.
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 16:27

3 Answers 3


It appears that the words relate to "areas such as the human body, animals, farming, the weather, family relationships, colours, landscape features, and human activities such as cooking, eating, sewing, hunting and carpentry." You might want to focus your study on these areas using whatever method suits you. You could browse websites, read forums, or join on-line groups related to those topics.

You might also want to to take it upon yourself to do something about this, while at the same time helping other learners who, as you said, probably have the same problem. You could start a blog or podcast about Anglo-Saxon English words and share articles / resources. This might help you a lot.

How do you usually study vocabulary?

  • 2
    AProcter, where did you get that quotation from?
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 16:07
  • @WendiKidd I found the source by searching for the phrase in quotes: collinsdictionary.com/words-and-language/word-origins/…
    – user230
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 18:54
  • 1
    Thanks for your suggestions but I cannot start a blog on this topic for a lack of knowledge. I wish someone would do it for me. I would like to find a book or web page entitled “English vocabulary for Romance languages speakers” with a large selection of not-that-common but still useful English words of Old English or Germanic roots.
    – Toli
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 9:07

I’ve found the following Wikipedia articles very useful in learning about the origin of English words from other languages.


I know what you are saying. The problem consists on learning words in plain, down-to-earth, language rather than abstract concepts. Some ideas are:
-- read books, such as novels, written in a not so formal language (example Jack London). You can go to library/bookstore and browse authors of this kind.
-- use detailed visual/pictures dictionaries. These have pictures of material objects or plain activities.
-- another way is to watch movies or serials especially if they have lots of dialogue. TV works for this purpose (there is continuous talk on TV). Movies have plain, non-academic language.

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