I’m not sure why it took me so long, but I’ve finally spent some time on vocabulary.com. The site had been recommended by students a few times before, but I only gave the site a cursory glance, thinking it not much different—or superior—to wordnik.com.
Wordnik.com, which I’ve recommended to students thus far, not only gives you the definition of the words; it also gives you example sentences. Learning vocabulary for the revised GRE requires great example sentences, and Wordnik—more or less—provided these.
But, to tell the truth, I found myself gravitating more to nytimes.com to look up example sentences, because I knew the consistency of writing would be stellar. Wordnik.com, by contrast, was a little too ecumenical, picking example sentences from just about any online source. And of course there were those impenetrable definitions taken from stodgy old dictionaries, written, most likely, by troglodytic lexicographers.
After a mere one hour on vocabulary.com, I can say my apostasy is complete: I am now a fan of vocabulary.com and only see myself consulting wordnik.com for the range of definitions it provides for each word.
So why is vocabulary.com so much better? First off, each word, from the lowly “dog” to the redoubtable “doggerel” comes with a fun and snappy description, and not just some formal definition. For instance, here is doggerel:
We’re not sure why poor dogs always seem to get used to describe something really dreadful, but it’s the case with doggerel — meaning irregularly rhyming, really bad poetry, usually comic in tone and fit only for dogs.
Wordnik.com, by contrast provides the following:
Doggerel (n.) Crudely or irregularly fashioned verse, often of a humorous or burlesque nature.
Not only does vocabulary.com do a far better job of making sure that you remember the meaning of the word, but it also provides example sentences taken only from reputable sources (the “Washington Posts” and “Wall Street Journals” of the world). Better yet, the example sentences are broken down via business, arts/culture, fiction etc. so you can see how the word is used over a variety of different contexts.
There is also a “Challenge Quiz” to help you build your vocabulary—though, to be frank, many of the words go beyond the GRE level. The test does adapt to your knowledge so I may have not gotten all the GRE words right—just because I live and breathe these words—and you might actually be exposed to more GRE-level words. (Also the “correct” answers are sometimes questionable—“ashen” and “livid”, for example, are mostly opposite).
All in all, vocabulary.com is a great place for word nerds (that’s me!) and GRE students to “hang out”. In fact, if I were you I’d have a browser open to vocabulary.com whenever you are studying GRE verbal or reading articles.