How to Memorize Vocabulary Words

How to Memorize Vocabulary Words


Like everything else in school, I wish I knew there was an easy way to memorize vocabulary words. I can see my teacher giving us a list of words to remember and me looking at the list like it was written in Greek.

The funny thing is that you can use the link method to remember new vocabulary words or new languages, including Greek. (Click here for a refresher on the link system.) In our examples, we will only worry about how to memorize vocabulary words.

Step One

Get your vocabulary list together. We’ll work with three vocabulary words often given to students when they read Lord of the Flies. 

  1. Ebullience
  2. Recrimination
  3. Vicissitude

Step Two

Think of a picture to represent the sound of the word. Remember that the images don’t have to make sense to anyone but you, so make it as weird as you like! My examples may not work for you, so feel free to change them!

  1. Ebullience – I imagine a bull dancing. A rose in its mouth tangoing (for the time being) all by itself.
  2. Recrimination – I see a stereotypical robber wearing a mask and striped shirt robbing a house. Then I imagine him robbing a second house. He is ‘re-criminating.’
  3. Leviathan – I imagine a pair of Levi jeans on a guy I know named Ethan. He is the Levi-Ethan. 

Step Three

Now we think of a second image for each vocabulary word that represents its meaning. Again, the picture only has to make sense to you. 

  1. Ebullience means “eager enjoyment or approval.” For this, I imagine a crowd cheering and shouting “Bravo! Bravo!” to demonstrate their approval.
  2. Recrimination – means “mutual accusations.” Two people pointing at each other claiming “he/she/they” did it will work for recrimination.
  3. Leviathan – means “the largest of most massive of its kind.” I will use the image of a giant to represent the meaning of Leviathan.

Step Four

Now we combine the two images so that we have a method for accessing how the word sounds and its meaning.

  1. Ebullience – A bull dancing the tango while a crowd lines the dance floor cheering and shouting “Bravo!”
  2. Recrimination – A burglar robs one house, then the second. The house owners arrive home simultaneously and start accusing each other of stealing from each other.
  3. Leviathan – Ethan is now a giant who wears Levi jeans. He looks down and sees all the tiny people around him.  


The examples that I used are of moderate difficulty. We do not commonly use these words, but their meanings are easy to grasp. When we combine the images, it’s not hard to sort out which part of the image denotes its sound and which part represents the meaning. 

If you find the images getting jumbled or you have to deal with challenging vocabulary, we can keep the pictures separate. Work through each image by moving in one direction all the time. This is especially helpful if we have to remember additional information beyond the definition.

For example, let’s say that I have to remember the word ebullience, its meaning, and how the author used it in Lord of the Flies. I want to work through those three problems consistently and logically. I am going to swipe those images to the left each time. 

I see the bull dancing. Swipe. I see a crowd cheering. Swipe. The crowd is a group of children. One child strolls into the middle of the group and blows into a conch shell. (It’s a clear image from the novel.) And the mind-movie is over.

Organization will certainly help recall the information correctly. The best organizational method is to be consistent in how the images and movies unfold in your mind. Find what works for you, and you’ll find memorizing vocabulary words easy.

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