english vocabulary book

7 Great English Vocabulary Books

Building vocabulary is one of the most challenging parts of learning English.

To speed up the process, one tool would be English vocabulary books.

These select important words for you to know, often with helpful explanations and exercises thrown in.

Check out these standout English vocabulary books for learning new words efficiently!


7 Handy English Vocabulary Books

1. “McGraw-Hill Essential ESL Dictionary”

McGraw-Hill Education Essential ESL Dictionary: 9,000+ Words for Learners of English

The first thing you’re going to need is a good dictionary so you can look up those interesting words you come across.

This dictionary is created specifically for the English language learner, so it’s designed in a way that’s easy to understand.

There are a number of additional resources that come with the dictionary.

It has sections that cover grammar rules and conversational English. You can even find a section with vocabulary words and illustrations focused on different themes like electronics, animals, and school.  

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If you really like the book, consider using it alongside “The American Idioms Dictionary” and “Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions,” which are also books by McGraw-Hill. These vocabulary books will help you learn the funny, unique and sometimes strange expressions that American English speakers use in conversations.

2. “English Vocabulary in Use” Series

Basic Vocabulary in Use: 60 Units of Vocabulary Practice in North American English With Answers

The “English Vocabulary in Use” series is a best-selling series of books by Cambridge University Press. 

It’s meant to help English students of all levels improve their vocabulary and work towards mastering the language.

With this series, you can choose to study American English or British English, which is great if you’re preparing for IELTS or TOEFL.

The books are also tailored for different skill levels. The series includes:

“Basic Vocabulary in Use” teaches 1,200 of the most important English words and is perfect for beginners.

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The rest of the series introduces thousands of words unique to each skill level, with terms getting technical and more specific with each new book.

3. “Oxford Picture Dictionary”

Oxford Picture Dictionary (Monolingual English)

If you’re a visual learner like me, you can really appreciate “The Oxford Picture Dictionary” because it uses beautiful photos and illustrations to teach vocabulary.

It also includes target vocabulary sections, pre-reading questions and stories so you can learn new words in context.

There are even bilingual versions of the dictionary, so you might be able to find one that uses English and your native language.

4. “504 Absolutely Essential Words”

504 Absolutely Essential Words

This book is best for people who want to learn survival English or to build a strong foundation before tackling more advanced material.

Like the name suggests, it covers more than 500 of the most important and frequently used words in English.

This book is also great for preparing for English proficiency tests because it’s filled with supplemental material like easy-to-understand sample sentences, short reading passages and exercises. 

Master words through quizzes with context
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5. “NTC Vocabulary Builders”

NTC Vocabulary Builders, Blue Book - Reading Level 10.0

This is another easy-to-use vocabulary book by McGraw-Hill.

It’s designed for advanced English learners who want to learn English vocabulary for professional settings.

If you want to focus on business English or you need to speak English at work, this series of books is for you. 

The “Blue Book” is for upper-intermediate and advanced learners.

There’s also a “Green Book” for high beginners, while the “Red Book” is designed for intermediate students.

All three levels are quite challenging compared to other books, which is why they’re only recommended for serious learners

6. “Word Power Made Easy”

Word Power Made Easy: The Complete Handbook for Building a Superior Vocabulary

Do you want a fun way to learn 1,000 of the most frequently used words in the English language? “Word Power Made Easy” is the right book for you!

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It has various games and activities that’ll help you learn in an enjoyable way.

The vocabulary words come with entertaining explanations so you can get a better idea of how to properly use these words in conversation and writing.

If you’re a big-picture thinker, you’ll love how these descriptions provide you with helpful background information.

Additionally, this book is loaded with valuable tips on how you can maximize your study habits and learn more words in less time!

7. “Merriam-Webster Vocabulary Builder”

Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder

Remembering vocabulary can feel like a chore if you stick with memorization, but “Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder” actually does a good job of helping you learn new words naturally.

This classic book takes you through thousands of words, but they’re all arranged based on their Greek and Latin roots.

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If you know one Latin root, for example, you can already guess the meaning of several words, so you can think of it as a shortcut to growing your vocabulary. 

Each word comes with a definition, example, and even an explanation of its history, so you pick up some interesting cultural facts!

There are also activities and mini-quizzes for each chapter.

Why Having a Big English Vocabulary Is Important

Building your vocabulary is one of the most important parts of learning a new language. In some ways, having a large vocabulary is more important than knowing the right grammar rules and word order.

Your extensive vocabulary allows you to be understandable, which is important if you’re in a situation where you’re in dire need of expressing yourself.

You never know if you’ll ever need to say, “My passport is lost,” or “I have food poisoning.”

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Even if you haven’t mastered English grammar, your vocabulary knowledge may mean the difference between getting help or not.

How to Build Your Vocabulary

The best way to build an enormous vocabulary is immerse to yourself in English.

If you’re just starting out, try reading some articles on Wikipedia’s Simple English page. You can also use sites like YouTube to watch English video clips and listen to English music.

Listen for the words you’ve learned in videos and music, and then expand to learning new ones. Subtitled videos and movies make it easy to look up new words.

To simplify this process, you can use an online immersion platform.

FluentU, for example, teaches English using video clips with interactive subtitles.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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These resources will help you remember the material covered in your vocabulary books, which will let you build your vocabulary much quicker.

They’ll also help make the learning process fun and refreshing, as nobody wants to read textbooks all day.

Here are some more tips for building your vocabulary: 

  • Know the context of the words you learn. Pay attention to how they’re used in sentences.
  • Use new words as much as possible. Mention them in your conversations and include them in your writing.
  • Start simple. Learn the words that you use the most in your day-to-day activities. Things involving time, food and daily routines are good.
  • Learn in groups. Types of food, modes of transportation, and vocabulary for hospital visits are all great groupings. Learning words randomly, like “cheese” and then “submarine,” is only going to confuse you.
  • Stay away from opposites. Don’t mix opposites in with your groupings, it’ll only confuse you. Stick with synonyms.


With these English vocabulary books and resources, you can structure your learning better and pick up more words than ever!

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.


FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:


FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.


FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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