100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know


100 Words for High School Students

The folks at American Heritage Dictionary have created a list of 100 words every high school student should know. They make it clear on their page that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. I guess that means you should know more than just these hundred. But if you can use these words correctly, “you are likely to have a superior command of the language.”

Check it out. Can you use each word in a sentence? If you are not sure of a word’s definition, click it.

Update: I just finished a quiz to test your knowledge of the 100 words! Click here and see how well you do!

WriteAtHome: We Teach Writing for You!


Leave your comments below! How many of these words did you know?

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

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  128. Harold

    Hey Brian,

    This site http://wordsinasentence.com/vocabulary-word-list/ has vocabulary sentences for a large number of words you listed.

    Really helps cement the word’s meaning – at least, it helps me!

  129. Darcy

    Hi, Brian. Thanks a lot for all the work you’ve done. I find it very interesting and useful for my work as a teacher of English in China, where many students want to know how many words an average middle school graduate really knows out of the word list. Would you please kindly tell me the results of the quiz or any information regarding my question? Thank you so much!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko10-25-2014

      Sure, Darcy. At least, I’ll tell you what I know. I have no way of knowing how many of these words the average high school graduate actually knows. My experience in teaching says it would be pretty small. Anyone can take my quiz and I don’t ask their age or education. Here’s what I know about the quiz:

      As of today, 5,033 people have taken the quiz. 80% of them completed the whole thing (which is a lot–it’s a long quiz!)

      21 people got 100% on the quiz. That’s about .42%
      166 got 95% or better. About 3%
      381 scored 90% or better. That’s about 7.5%
      1090 score 80% or better. About 22%
      2188 scored 70% or better. That means about 43% of quiz-takers passed the quiz.
      3254 scored 60% or better. About 65%

      The easiest words, based on the percentage of people who got it correct are:

      chromosome 99% correct
      photosynthesis 99%
      respiration 98%
      plagiarize 97%
      hemoglobin 96%
      metamorphosis 96%
      oxidize 95%

      The hardest words, based on the percentage of people who got it correct are:

      enervate 23%
      sanguine 27%
      fiduciary 29%
      unctuous 29%
      pecuniary 34%

  130. Jana Curry
    Jana Curry07-28-2014

    Mr. Wasko,

    Your definition of photosynthesis in the quiz is incorrect. It should state that it is the process by which plants convert sunlight into glucose (energy) and oxygen. Plants use carbon dioxide in photosynthesis they do not produce it.


    Jana Curry, MS Biology
    High School Science Teacher

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko07-30-2014

      Thank you Jana. I have corrected the quiz.

      Brian Wasko
      Not a Science Teacher

  131. Pamela Diamond
    Pamela Diamond10-15-2013

    Maybe a list every fifth grader should know?

  132. Terri

    I might take this as a challenge to use at least one word a day in a post.

  133. stephen

    errr. don’t think it’s spelled RIGHT (head desk)

  134. stephen

    “Mendacity” is an important word, too. It is on almost every SAT exam. I’ve never needed to know ziggurat (in fact, the dictionary on computers don’t think it’s spelled wrong)

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko12-28-2012

      There are plenty of important words not on the list, Stephen. The folks at the dictionary just felt like these represented a good list of words high school graduates “should know.” There are certainly plenty of words that the average Joe would find more useful.

    • AnWulf

      I hav seen ziggurat often but then I like history and it’s often seen in texts about pyramids. I don’t recall ever having seen mendacity. Truthfully, neither of those two words would be my list of 100 words that a HS graduate should … For that matter, at least half of this wouldn’t be there. It’s made up mostly of words that are shibboleths but not truly useful.

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  135. Lisa Barfield
    Lisa Barfield12-04-2012

    I’m embarrassed— I only know about half these words! It’s time to read another Victorian novel, I suppose. “A Christmas Carol,” anyone?

    One of my favorite vocabulary stories occurred right after high school, when I sneaked into a class I had formerly taken. When one of the students recognized me and said my name, I shushed her. “I’m trying to be surreptitious,” I said.

    My former teacher, from the front of the room, loudly replied, “You can’t be surreptitious using words like surreptitious.”

  136. janderson

    Hey Brian,

    I am using your comma rules. Here is 1200 words with pictures that every 4th grader planning to go to Harvard should know. vvl.wikispaces.com Check out the Gold and silver vocabulary.
    My email is janderson@scischina.org


  137. janderson

    Hey Brian,

    I am using your comma rules. Here is 1200 words with pictures that every 4th grader planning to go to Harvard should know. vvl.wikispaces.com Check out the Gold and silver vocabulary.
    My email is janderson@scischina.org

  138. Joy @ Five J's
    Joy @ Five J's11-29-2012

    I noticed you have only 99 words. You omitted the word “wrought” from the original list of 100.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko11-29-2012

      How observant you are, Joy! I’ll fix that immediately. :)

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