4 Steps to Building Vocabulary- Step 3: Make Networks of Synonyms Suman March 11, 2015

4 Steps to Building Vocabulary- Step 3: Make Networks of Synonyms

Welcome back to the series on building vocabulary. I hope following these steps is helping you move forward. So far in the series, we’ve looked at:

1. 6 reasons why vocabulary is important – the first post in the series recapitulated reasons why a strong command over words can help you communicate better in any situation in your life. in fact, it is imperative a lot of times to have good word power to express yourself.

2. How to build your vocabulary in 4 steps – the second post in the series takes you through the step wise process. Starting from the basics of learning the meaning of each word to how you could pile on synonyms to multiply your word power.

3. Step 1: Learn new words – the third post in the series went on discuss step one in detail illustrating how to start the process of learning words one step at a time. It shows a sample illustration of how your vocabulary book should have words, meanings, word forms and examples to every new word you come across. And I hope that 2 weeks after the post, you are well on your way to continuing addition to your word power.

4. Step 2: Make networks: Putting synonyms together will make it easier to remember them.

Step 3 of vocabulary building: Develop Networks

And it only gets easier from here. As you must have anticipated, this stage is a natural progression from the previous one. Your vocabulary learning becomes more dynamic at this stage. You have added scores of words to your word power and now is it time to weave them into a pattern that can help you remember them better. You can now start bunching words together since you already know the meanings of many. A thesaurus should become your friend by now. 

We are now creating a visual thesaurus by adding more words to our repertoire.


Words get grouped according to their meanings. Photo credit

For instance, debilitate means to make weak or feeble. The network would be:

Debilitate: enfeeble, effete, emaciate, emasculate

All these broadly mean to weaken or rob one of power or strength. In a situation where you are not sure of the exact meaning of any of these words, you can recall the general meaning and use the best one. How to figure out the exact word to be used among the synonyms will be dealt with in the next post.

From the earlier example of variety, we have more synonyms that can be used in appropriate contexts.

Variety: array, collection, diversity, variation, heterogenous, conglomeration


Forgive:  pardon, absolve, exculpate, exempt, exonerate, grant amnesty

And since the word you started with here is forgive, you will remember that the dominant meaning here is to free from blame.

Let’s look at networks of the words above in this post:

Intractable: perverse, headstrong, dogged, obdurate, stony, willful, froward, fractious, refractory, unbending, inflexible, adamant, unyielding, intransigent, obstinate, indocile, uncompromising, unmanageable

Loquacious: chattering, babbling, garrulous, talkative, loose-mouthed

Assuage: relieve, ease, mitigate, allay, relieve, mollify, ameliorate, abate, extenuate


Make networks of synonyms Photo Credit

If you have been working on your vocabulary, you can start adding synonyms to your notes at the end.

Suggested activity: If you haven’t yet begun learning words, you can start building your word power now. Read the previous posts in the series which should set you on track.

If you have been working on your vocab, congratulations! You have persevered through the hard part. Go back to your notes and find words you can group together. In future, start referring to the thesaurus so that your networks become easier to build.

Don’t forget to drop me a line about your progress/questions/feedback/comments. Waiting to hear from you!

Also in the series:

The final post talks about understanding nuances and connotations of words. This post talks about learning to use words in different contexts even if it means using them metaphorically and in different intensity of emotions.