I have found a way to significantly reduce the difficulty of learning vocabulary words. It involves the concept of words that are defined in terms of other words.
Words belonging to a particular category can be listed under and defined in terms of one main (categorical) word. That way, the appalling number of vocabulary words present in the dictionary may be reduced to a much smaller number and studying becomes much more focused and robust.
Where can I find a list showing categorical words and their members?
Here is an example (definitions are from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary):
Categorical Word: Place
abattoir: a place where animals are killed for their meat
abode: the place where someone lives:
accommodation: a place to live, work, stay, etc. in:
airport: a place where aircraft regularly take off and land, with buildings for passengers to wait in
apiary:a place where people keep bees, especially a collection of hives (= containers in which bees live) kept to provide honey
tannery: the place where leather is made
tavern: a place where alcohol is sold and drunk
tip : a place where especially large pieces of rubbish can be taken and left
As you can see, the words (abattoir, abode, accommodation, airport, and apiary, etc...) can be listed under and defined in terms of the word place.
Now imagine how easy it is to find words relating to place. Wouldn't that make learning vocabulary so much easier and more fun? What if we did the same for other words?