English Vocabulary Elements

Denning, Keith, Brett Kessler & William R. Leben. 2007. English vocabulary elements, 2nd edn. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN-13: 978-0-19-516802-0; 978-0-19-516803-7 (pbk.)

Back ad copy

Cover Fascination with words—their meanings, origins, pronunciation, usages—is something most of us experience at some point. This book aims both to fuel and to satisfy that fascination.

The book is based on a course that each of the authors helped to develop at Stanford University over the past twenty years. The aim of the course was to help students master English vocabulary and to provide the fundamentals for pursuing an interest in English words. To this end, the book offers a detailed but introductory survey of the developments that have given English a uniquely rich vocabulary, taking into account both the changing structure of the language and the historical events that shaped the language as a whole. Anyone who believes that changes in the language are robbing it of its elegance or expressive power will see this view challenged by the developments described here.

At the core of the book are a set of several hundred vocabulary elements that English borrowed, directly or indirectly, over the past fifteen hundred years, from Latin and Greek. These elements, introduced gradually chapter by chapter, provide a key to understanding the structure and meaning of much of the learned vocabulary of the language.

The chapters trace the history and structure of English words from the sixth century onward, laying out the major influences that are still observable in our vocabulary today. Each chapter ends with a large number of exercises. These offer many different types of practice with the material in the text, making it possible to tailor the work to different sets of needs and interests.

Upon finishing this textbook, students will be able to penetrate the structure of an enormous portion of the vocabulary of English, with or without the help of a dictionary, and to understand better how an individual word fits into the system of the language.

This second edition incorporates improved and refined text as well as examples and exercises, with thorough revision of pedagogy as a result of their significant classroom-based expertise. The new edition also updates cultural references, accounts for variations in pronunciation among students, and clarifies when historical details are important or peripheral.

About the Authors


A course using the book, taught by one of the authors, is available for free from the iTunes Store (click this link, or navigate iTunes U / Stanford / STANFORD COURSES)

The course outline and PowerPoint slides are available here.

Instructor Manual

Instructors who adopt the text for a course are invited to contact William Leben at leben@stanford.edu for a free answer key to the exercises. Please include EVE in your subject line.

Additions, changes, corrections.

APA Citation:

Denning, K., Kessler, B., & Leben, W. R. (2007). English vocabulary elements (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Last change 2016-04-02T15:11:40-0500