Vocabulary Word Lists Essential for Middle School

, M.Ed. English Education
Updated April 20, 2021
students working on vocabulary word list
    students working on vocabulary word list
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Middle school students are right in the middle of learning how to read in elementary school and taking on complex texts in high school. The key to their success is a strong reading and writing vocabulary! Equip them for this upcoming challenge by adding a variety of high-frequency and advanced words to their middle school vocabulary words.

Middle School Vocabulary Lists

Each of the words listed below is not only linked to the corresponding definition page, but we’ve also provided the part of speech and brief definition in this table.

Vocabulary Words for 7th Grade

Younger middle schoolers are ready for some more interesting words in their vocabulary lesson! Try these words out in your next weekly list for students to master.

abound (v.)to exist
aptitude (n.)a natural skill
balk (v.)to block, to prevent
berserk (adj.)out of control, raging
civil (adj.)having to do with civilization; polite
confiscate (v.)to take a thing away
data (n.)information, especially in a computer
dawdle (v.)to move slowly or waste time
debris (n.)scattered and broken pieces of material
eavesdrop (v.)to overhear or secretly listen to a conversation
encounter (v.)to meet, especially unexpectedly
epic (adj.)heroic, grand
evade (v.)to avoid, to escape from
fragrance (n.)a scent or aroma
hasten (v.)to hurry
mellow (adj.)calm, smooth
misgivings (n.)doubts or uncertainties
ominous (adj.)creepy or spooky
pristine (adj.)perfectly clean
prose (n.)spoken or written language that isn’t poetry
puncture (n., v.)a small hole, or to make a small hole
quest (n.)a search to achieve a certain goal
random (adj.)without order or reason
rant (v.)to complain at length
sham (adj.)not real, false
somber (adj.)sad and serious
status (n.)a person’s standing or relative social position
turmoil (n.)chaos, confusion
wholesome (adj.)healthy or proper
zeal (n.)excitement for something

Printable 7th Grade Word List

If you'd rather pass out a paper version of these words, check out a printable version. It includes all 30 words above and makes a perfect reference sheet for 7th graders.

7th grade vocabulary list printable

7th grade vocabulary list

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Vocabulary Words for 8th Grade

Now that 8th graders are reading more complicated stories and novels, they are encountering words with more nuance. Keep that knowledge going with these challenging 8th grade vocabulary words and definitions.

abet (v.)to help, especially with crime
beacon (n.)something, especially a light, that warns or guides
braggart (n.)someone who boasts about themselves
cache (n.)a safe, hidden supply
celestial (adj.)having to do with the sky or heavens
chasten (v.)to punish or correct
clarification (n.)the act of making clear
coherent (adj.)holding together
despondent (adj.)very sad, despairing, hopeless
detract (v.)to belittle, to take away from
embezzle (v.)to steal something entrusted to your care
encore (n.)an additional performance called for by the audience
etymology (n.)study of word origins
heartrending (adj.)causing grief or sorrow
leisurely (adj., adv.)at a slow, comfortable pace
lethargic (adj.)at a slow pace, sluggish
malady (n.)ailment, disease
nomadic (adj.)traveling from place to place, without a permanent home
pantomime (n.)performance with elaborate gestures but no words
pessimism (n.)the state of expecting the worst
piecemeal (adj.)done bit by bit or in pieces
precaution (n.)a protective action done in advance
prosecute (v.)to pursue or attack, especially a crime in a court of law
reinforce (v.)to increase in amount or make stronger
retaliate (v.)to strike back against something done to you
seclusion (n.)isolation, privacy
thwart (v.)to stop from happening, to hinder
uncouth (adj.)clumsy or impolite
underscore (v.)to emphasize, especially by underlining
wistful (adj.)full of sad desire, yearning

Printable 8th Grade Word List

Pass out a helpful vocabulary printable to help students study for an upcoming quiz. It includes the above words and simple definitions to reinforce understanding.

8th grade vocabulary list printable

8th grade vocabulary list

Click to View & Download

Strengthen Middle School Vocabulary Lessons

No one likes memorizing a list of vocabulary words. So how do you work these lists into your language arts curriculum? Use these ideas to make your middle school vocabulary lesson engaging and memorable.

Vocabulary Flashcards

Start with a customizable vocabulary flashcard template. Then, ask students to build sentences and sort words based on their implications. Use these lists of words to describe colors, places and behavior to help them see how their vocab words fit into language and make meaning.


Creative Writing Challenges

As much as we might want to, we can’t take our kids’ tests for them. Instilling good study habits is as important as — maybe more important than — memorizing the topics of the test. Give students daily challenges: 10 spooky words, for example, or five words in their vocabulary list that could describe the United States. By reinforcing vocabulary this way, you help your students with discipline and focus.

Reading Reinforcement

Reading isn’t just for a test, or even just for school. Regular reading helps people, not just kids, live richer, more fulfilling lives. Allow middle schoolers to read books that interest them, and also assign classic books for teens and young adults to build vocabulary. Have them use context clues and explicit instruction to get through the tougher parts of these novels.


More Middle School Resources

Middle school is an important time for students to master foundational language arts skills. They can bring their vocabulary and reading comprehension skills to high school reading and writing assignments. For more middle school resources, check out these writing strategy tips for middle schoolers. You can also incorporate these middle school creative writing prompts that even reluctant writers will enjoy.