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all the words (the lexicon) of a language, including neologisms, dialect and slang words, and terminology. A vocabulary’s scope and composition depend on the nature and level of the speaker’s economic, social, and cultural life. A vocabulary is an organized system in which words are united or contrasted through various relationships of content, as exemplified by synonyms, homonyms, antonyms, and semantic fields.

Words in frequent and wide use constitute the active vocabulary, and specialized or rarely used words (archaisms, neologisms, and terminology) constitute the passive vocabulary. The boundaries between the active and passive vocabulary are not fixed, and over a language’s course of development words shift from one group to the other. Examples are Russian proshenie (“petition”), prisluga (“maidservant”), guverner (“tutor”), and gorodovoi (“policeman”), which have passed from the active to the passive vocabulary.

Certain words are actively used by all speakers of a language over a lengthy period of history, for example, names of parts of the body or natural phenomena, terms related to kinship, and words designating basic activities, traits, and qualities. Such words are termed the basic vocabulary and are subject to the fewest changes. Frequency dictionaries indicate the relationship between the active and passive vocabulary at a given stage of development, generally within the limits of certain styles, genres, or types of speech.

As society develops, vocabularies continually expand owing to the formation of words through derivation and the assimilation of borrowings. During various epochs words from Scandinavian, Finnish, Turkic, Church Slavonic, Greek, and later from Latin and the Romance and Germanic languages entered the Russian vocabulary, whose base consists of Common Slavic and native Russian words. The vocabulary of German has absorbed words from Latin, French, Italian, English, and several other languages. These layers of borrowed words within a language’s vocabulary reflect the cultural and historical ties between peoples and constitute a proof—sometimes the only proof—of contacts among ancient peoples. Vocabularies are recorded, although not completely, in dictionaries.


Ozhegov, S. I. “K voprosu ob izmeneniiakh slovarnogo sostava russkogo iazyka v sovetskuiu epokhu.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1953, no. 2.
Borovoi, L. Ia. Put’slova, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1963.
Iakubovich, T. D. Novyeslova. Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.
Ufimtseva, A. A. Slovo v leksiko-semanticheskoi sisteme iazyka. Moscow, 1968.
References in periodicals archive ?
Vocabulary Builder not only automatically adds the words that a user normally uses to the active vocabulary, it also teaches the system about his or her writing style.
1998) The development of passive and active vocabulary in a second language: same or different?
Child protection' and 'Risk assessments' are new and essential terms in our active vocabulary.
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In addition to the vocabulary of words that come with L&H Dragon NaturallySpeaking, students can customize the software's active vocabulary list of over 250,000 words with the built-in Vocabulary Builder.
com medical vocabularies for the latest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Medical Suite, physicians can take advantage of all of the advancements Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional version 4, including significantly reduced training time, increased active vocabulary size, speech commands for the Internet, and the ability to take advantage of new instructions for enhanced performance on both the Intel Pentium III and the new AMD(R) Athlon(TM) processors.
LARGE ACTIVE VOCABULARY -- The active vocabulary comes with up to 50,000 words.
Version 4 adds speech commands for the Internet, and includes several industry leading enhancements, such as a dramatically increased active vocabulary size, significantly reduced training time, and the ability to take advantage of new instructions for enhanced performance on both the Intel(R) Pentium(R) III and the brand new AMD(R) Athlon(TM) processors.
Comprehensive, customizable vocabulary -- The L&H Voice Xpress for Medicine active vocabulary can include up to 64,000 words.