High School Vocabulary: Word Lists For Grades 9-12

By Ashley Austrew

Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or a high school student yourself, you’re probably aware that having a strong vocabulary is important for reading, writing, and speaking. In ninth through twelfth grades, students are not only tackling high-level coursework, but also preparing for their adult lives beyond school. The words they learn now will carry through into their later educational and career endeavors, and that makes it especially important to put in the effort to grow their vocabulary, literacy, and spelling skills.

To help get high schoolers back in the swing of things, we’ve put together 12 word lists with hundreds of essential vocabulary words for every stage of high school, along with flash cards, quizzes, and more. These words will not only help students in English class or while taking the SAT. They’ll also help students studying advanced science, history, art, political science, and more. Keep scrolling to learn them all!

When you’re preparing for the big tests in your life, turn to these word lists and quizzes build right for the SAT, ACT, and more.

Ninth-grade vocabulary words and tips

In ninth grade, students are making the transition into advanced learning that will prepare them for college, careers, and beyond. These students are exploring history, science, writing, and literature, and being able to spell and comprehend a great many multisyllabic words with multiple meanings is an important skill.

Ninth graders aren’t only studying words for their spelling or meaning, though. Rather, they’re studying vocabulary to gain a deeper understanding of language and the ability to analyze the impact of words in context. This is a requirement for much of the higher level learning and analysis done by students in high school. Reading remains important at this stage, as does studying new words to learn and use throughout their school work. Here are 75 vocabulary words ninth graders need to know.

  • Ninth-Grade Vocab Word List 1
    • absorption
    • characteristic
    • executive
    • accomodation
    • reference
    • grateful
    • ascend
    • satisfactory
    • interval
    • civilization … full list
  • Ninth-Grade Vocab Word List 2
    • cocoon
    • remembrance
    • favorable
    • precise
    • interpretation
    • accompaniment
    • sensible
    • ecstasy
    • administration
    • monotony … full list
  • Ninth-Grade Vocab Word List 3
    • adequate
    • fiery
    • adolescent
    • suppress
    • nuisance
    • indispensable
    • opposition
    • lively
    • commissioner
    • hindrance … full list

Now take those ninth grade skills up a notch with this quiz!

Tenth-grade vocabulary words and tips

Students in tenth grade are building on many of the literacy skills they acquired in ninth grade. They’re able to not only decode complex words, but also to understand the figurative, connotative, and technical meanings within a text, analyze word choice, and determine the best words to use to convey their ideas.

Students at this stage are likely also preparing to take practice SAT and ACT tests within the coming year or so, making it all the more important for them to have a rich and robust vocabulary. Reviewing these word lists, practicing with flash cards, and taking advantage of our spelling and definition quizzes will help kids slowly and steadily make progress on this goal. Here are three word lists to help tenth graders feel ahead of the curve.

  • Tenth-Grade Vocab Word List 1
    • circumvent
    • indigenous
    • estrange
    • anarchy
    • dormant
    • derogatory
    • belligerent
    • unilateral
    • stringent
    • connotation … full list
  • Tenth-Grade Vocab Word List 2
    • assiduous
    • obscure
    • vindicate
    • expedite
    • bolster
    • coalition
    • perfunctory
    • nonchalant
    • impetuous
    • disseminate … full list
  • Tenth-Grade Vocab Word List 3
    • dissident
    • subordinate
    • admonish
    • jurisdiction
    • travesty
    • precipitate
    • alternative
    • redeem
    • bureaucratic
    • validate … full list 

Once you’ve reviewed these words, consider testing your expertise of tenth grade vocabulary with a quiz.

Eleventh-grade vocabulary words and tips

By eleventh grade, much of the focus for students is on college and career readiness. By the end of their eleventh-grade year, many students will have taken their ACT or SAT. They’re likely also looking at colleges they’d like to apply to during their senior year, and probably practicing those admissions essays as well. All of this makes a strong vocabulary an especially important thing to have.

Rather than cramming for a specific test or assignment, it will be helpful for eleventh graders to focus on study and enrichment all year long. They can use these three lists to get started by reviewing the words daily with digital flashcards and taking our accompanying word quizzes to see how much they’ve retained. With a little practice each day, these terms will be second nature to eleventh graders in no time.

  • Eleventh-Grade Vocab Word List 1
    • iconoclast
    • aberration
    • brevity
    • affinity
    • indoctrinate
    • coalesce
    • proximity
    • debilitate
    • contradiction
    • effervescent … full list
  • Eleventh-Grade Vocab Word List 2
    • conciliatory
    • scrutinize
    • edifice
    • biased
    • heretic
    • accolade
    • dearth
    • altercation
    • usurp
    • delineate … full list
  • Eleventh-Grade Vocab Word List 3
    • edifice
    • aesthetic
    • tirade
    • caustic
    • rigorous
    • indict
    • ponderance
    • dilettante
    • judicious
    • ameliorate … full list

Think you can pass this eleventh grade vocab quiz? Only one way to find out!

Twelfth-grade vocabulary words and tips

In their final year of high school, students are able to interpret, use, and understand some of the most complex words in the English language. They’ve built up their vocabularies through their regular coursework and by studying for the SAT or ACT, if they’ve taken the tests or plan to. Students at this level are working with the real world in mind, and they need to be able to interpret language in a variety of settings.

So, what’s left to do? Plenty! It’s time to deepen their understanding of language and create a lifelong practice of learning and thinking about the way we use words. For twelfth graders, this may mean reading more complicated books and poetry, being adventurous in their writing, and seeking new opportunities for learning, which is a lifelong skill that will benefit them once they leave the four walls of the school building. They can start by getting familiar with these word lists. These words are ones they may need for test prep, college, their careers, and beyond. Start by reviewing the words, and then dig in to our spelling tests and quizzes to build a functional and seriously impressive vocabulary in no time.

  • Twelfth-Grade Vocab Word List 1
    • anachronism
    • impute
    • abdicate
    • denouement
    • camaraderie
    • incompatible
    • ephemeral
    • prudent
    • expository
    • digression … full list
  • Twelfth-Grade Vocab Word List 2
    • evanescent
    • abbreviate
    • frugal
    • hackneyed
    • adulation
    • longevity
    • florid
    • diligent
    • wary
    • rancorous … full list
  • Twelfth-Grade Vocab Word List 3
    • anecdote
    • intrepid
    • fortuitous
    • ostentatious
    • superfluous
    • demagogue
    • subtle
    • arid
    • transient
    • collaborative … full list

Once you’ve reviewed these words, test yourself with this quiz built straight for twelfth grade vocabulary.

Ashley Austrew is a freelance journalist and writer from Omaha, Nebraska. Her work has been published at CosmopolitanScary MommyScholastic, and other outlets. For more by Ashley, read: “Teacher” vs. “Tutor”: Why Most Kids Need Both | Your Student Can Take Middle School By Storm With The Right Vocabulary | Make Your Writing The Star Of National Grammar Day With These Tips | How To Plan Out And Plan Ahead For Your Final Project

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If you have a child still in the midst of middle school, this word list resource might be just what they need.

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