As part of a larger project concerning adult beginner Swedish second language learners’ approaches to word learning, this article investigates reported beliefs on word knowledge by the same demographic. To an open-ended survey question – ‘What does it mean to know a word?’ – 111 responses were collected, then disseminated using a top-down content analysis. Responses are classified by the word knowledge features expressed by participants using Nation’s Form, Meaning and Use framework for second language vocabulary knowledge as a guiding model for analysis.

Findings indicate that word-knowledge beliefs reported were relatively equal across the form, meaning and use classifications. Spoken and written forms of words, generalized meaning of words, and constraints on use were the most frequent word-knowledge features reported as important. The least mentioned features were meaning associations, meaning related to various word forms, and collocational knowledge. Two other belief categories were classified as ‘ability-based’, reflecting skills or abilities that are expected as the results of acquiring various word knowledges, and ‘less important’ reflecting word knowledge features thought to be less important than others. Findings are discussed in relation to vocabulary acquisition in SLA research, the complexity of individual learners, and possible consequences for language pedagogy.

Keywords: second language acquisition, Swedish language, vocabulary acquisition, learner beliefs