Would you like a bigger vocabulary? If you're like most people, the answer is yes. Then again, if you're like most people, you don't have the free time to enroll in a course or work your way through the dictionary.
But you can use your smartphone as a powerful tool to learn new words, increase your vocabulary and strengthen your command of the English language without devoting blocks of time to the task. These apps make learning new words painless or even fun, and all you need is a minute or two at a time while drinking your morning coffee or waiting in line. (Unless noted otherwise, these apps are available for both iOS and Android devices.)
This combined learning tool and game allows you to either learn and retain words you choose or words the app chooses for you. Vocabulary.com claims to use sophisticated algorithms to customize questions and exercises just for you.
PowerVocab is a definition matching game similar to this quiz currently popular on Facebook, or to Free Rice. Players match words against multiple-choice definitions with the added elements of competing against other players and playing against the clock. (Android only.)
3. Magoosh Vocabulary Builder
This quiz app is similar to PowerVocab but is specifically aimed at improving scores on the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) used for entry to graduate schools. Magoosh is an online prep company that helps graduate school applicants do better on the GRE and other exams.
4. A Word A Day Widget
5. 7 Little Words
This fun little vocabulary game gives you seven definitions and tiles with combinations of two or three letters on them that you have to arrange into the seven words. You learn as you narrow down your choices from words you do know to words you don't. I'll admit to having played many rounds of 7 Little Words myself.
6. Word to Word
This clever word association game offers you lists of words and challenges you to find the connections between them. They could be synonyms or antonyms, related words (such as "scurvy" and "liver") or elements in common phrases. Word to Word is simple to play but looks addictive to me.
7. Words with Friends
This highly successful game from Zynga (the company behind Farmville) has been around for years and still appeals. (I'm a recent convert myself.) Because the only way to win is to find uncommon words, Words with Friends forces you to learn new words although not ones you're likely to find on a GRE exam. Plus, it's a nice way to stay in touch with distant friends. Available for Windows Phone as well as iOS and Android.
8. Penny Dell Crosswords
Doing crosswords is a great way to increase your vocabulary and Penny Dell Crosswords offers a free daily puzzle. But there are many other crossword app options out there, including the venerable and challenging New York Times crosswords, if you're willing to pay for the subscription. Doing a crossword puzzle on a mobile device can be a lot more appealing than doing one with a pencil or pen--no worries about illegible letters or having to erase a wrong answer.
So pick an app, download it and get playing. Your vocabulary will be bigger before you know it.