100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know

I’m shocked that “pwned” failed to make this list:

BOSTON, MA — The editors of the American Heritage® dictionaries have compiled a list of 100 words they recommend every high school graduate should know.

“The words we suggest,” says senior editor Steven Kleinedler, “are not meant to be exhaustive but are a benchmark against which graduates and their parents can measure themselves. If you are able to use these words correctly, you are likely to have a superior command of the language.”


  1. That sent me to a dictionary many times, but some of the choices seem very obscure. Obscure to the point of being pretentious even, and therefore a bit ironic that “circumlocution” found its way into the list. But hey, maybe it’s just a sides-of-the-pond thing, or maybe I’m just don’t have enough voc… vocabille… vocabul… words for stuff.

  2. i have a bachelor’s degree in english, and there were three or four words on that list that i did not know the definitions for. this list is a bit over-zealous. i would highly doubt that even 5% of grads would know all of these words.

  3. “The list is representative of the words that serious students will encounter in their coursework and will come to use as adults, whether in conversation or while reading the daily newspaper.”

    What adults you have conversed with lately have used the word “bowdlerize” ?

  4. What Michelle said.

    I, too, have B.A. in English (and a law degree, too) and I didn’t know two of the words on that list.

    There is no way in the world that 1 in a hundred high school grads know all the words.

  5. I can see someone using the word “pyramid” in an everyday conversation, but “ziggurat”? I can’t think of many people who would travel to the Middle East to see ziggurats, or of many architects building ziggurat inspired houses. I mean, if ziggurat is on a top 100 list of words to know, then the English language must not have that many words worth knowing.

  6. That list is meaningless.
    I consider my vocabulary above average and I don’t think I know about 20 of those words.
    Another 20 I recognise but would probably only remember their meaning if I see them in a proper context (Nomenclature for instance).

    If I ever encounter those words, I’ll either glean the meaning from the text itself or google them if they pop up again.

    You can still get a full understanding of a text even if you don’t know all the words used.

  7. @vegastar: What about “ziggurat”? It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

    I for one am surprised that “euro” made the list. Who in the US would ever need to use that word?

  8. Vegastar: Doh! There’s another one. I’ve only ever heard ‘ziggurat’ used to mean hierarchical command structure, ie, ‘climb the ziggurat’ and didn’t consider it might be metaphorical. Again, maybe a sides-of-the-pond thing, maybe just me 🙂

  9. Although I knew every word on the list (I’m a word nerd, sorry), I have NEVER encountered “moiety” in any context save my undergraduate anthropology class.

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