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Software

Learn college-level vocabulary words by texting with friends

Feeling insufficiently erudite? Get ready to enroll in Words U, a messaging app that aims to improve your word power.

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Words U replaces regular words with $10 ones. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

You've heard of Words with Friends? Get ready for vocabulary words with friends.

Words U for iOS is a messaging app aimed at students or anyone else looking to increase their word power. It's free, and the English major in me absolutely loves it.

It works like this: You start a text chat with a friend, same as you normally would. The moment you tap Send, however, the app analyzes your message and swaps out ordinary words for SAT-level ones. Thus, "hi" becomes "salutations," "interesting" becomes "riveting," and so on.

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Any substituted words are highlighted in blue, and you can tap them to read a definition. Can't recall what your original word was? Tap and hold the light bulb icon to toggle back to the original message.

Words U also gamifies the learning process: You "level up" as you discover more words, and you can use "memory stacks" (essentially flash cards) to quiz yourself on new words and their definitions.

The app's pricing model is a bit unusual. It's free, and for the first 24 hours you can get definitions for as many words as you can "unlock" (i.e., view in the course of texting). After that, Words U will still swap words for you, but if you want definitions, you'll have to buy (via in-app purchase) a vocabulary block: 300 words for $6.99 or 800-plus for $14.99.

That's a little steep, and because it doesn't integrate with the stock Messages app, you'll have to talk your friends into using it. But if you're prepping for an SAT test or the like, this is a pretty cool way to get some extra study without extra studying.