How Many English Words Are There?

How Many English Words Are There?

Can you guess how many English words are there in the English language?


It may seem like a simple question, but, in fact, it isn’t.


Today, there are more than a million words in English.

According to the research of Harvard University from 2010, there are around 1.200.000 words in English.


People currently use around 170.000 words, and each person uses 20.000 to 30.000 words.


But why are we talking about different numbers of words?


Stay with us, because we will give you the information about English words.


New Words in English

The number of words grows each year. We get around several thousand new words of English every year.

For example, in 2019, in the dictionary, you couldn’t find the word ‘COVID-19’.

But, in 2020, not only can you find the word in dictionaries, but there's no person in the world who doesn’t know what that word means.


Have you heard of the word ‘beer-o’clock/ wine- o’clock?’

It is also a new word in English, which describes the best time of the day for starting to drink.

Or, for example, the word ‘hangry.’ Oh, don’t worry. It is well-written. This one is also a new word in the Oxford Dictionary. It is defined as a combination of hunger and anger. You know that feeling when you are in such a bad mood because you need to eat something right away.

According to the latest update in the Oxford Dictionary, currently, there are around 550 new words in English.


Old Words New Meanings

English is a fascinating language. 

One may say the language that recycles, too.

Since there are so many words, many of them are archaic and are no longer used.

Old words go, the new words come. 

However, the language, and its people, of course, always find a way to remember some words and re-use them.

For example, in today’s world, on which occasions you use the word ‘tweet?’ Social media, of course.

But, the word tweet is originally defined as a type of bird call.


English Loves to Loan Words

Loanwords are words borrowed from other languages.

In English, there are many loanwords from French, around 30% of them. Today, these French words are used in English in everyday conversations.

Then there are also loanwords from Latin, around 30%.

Let’s not forget to mention German words in English. Almost one-third of English words come from German.

For example, the word ‘casa,’ became so widely used, that many even forget that the word is naturalized from Spanish in the meaning ‘house.’ 

Don’t let loanwords confuse you. It doesn't mean that English wants to take words from other languages.

It means that the language is widely open to everything new, popular, and easy-to-use. English tends to be practical.

Look at loanwords this way; other languages, such as Spanish, French, or German, will be easier to use since you already know many words in those languages. 

And all that, thanks to English.


Do Nonce Words Count?

According to the Dictionary, the nonce words are words coined and used for a particular occasion.

So, for example, the word ‘snacktabulous’ is a nonce word.

For those who like playing with words this way, read the poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. The whole poem is made of nonce words but only two of them, ‘chortle’ and ‘galumph’ were used commonly.

So, go ahead and make your own nonce word. Who knows, maybe next year it enters the dictionary?


Slang Words

The world of slang perhaps gives the most words since they change quite fast. And the same way people use them, the old ones go to history.

Even though you can’t find them in traditional dictionaries, there are special slang dictionaries where you can find many slang words and phrases. Search for British slang words, in case you want to have true British ‘mate,’ or American slang, if you are up to the American English. 

For those who are about to visit the Land Down Under, Australian slang is a must. Don’t forget to spend a day with your new friends and ‘Barbie.’


How Many English Words Are in The English Dictionary?

To be sure and to know the exact number of words in English, can we count words in the dictionary?

Well, that can be a complete waste of time.

Dictionaries count words differently, and they also have limited space.

There are also different types of dictionaries, such as slang, scientific dictionaries, or learners’ dictionaries that include only the basics.

Let’s not forget the post-modern benefits of technology and mention online dictionaries.

Thanks to them, people can upgrade new English words every day. This way, dictionaries are growing and expanding even beyond their published editions.


So, there are around 1.200.000 English words in total; with archaic, new, scientific, etc. words.

For everyday use, around 170.000 words is an average.

And, each person, depending on their knowledge, experience, and education, knows from 20.000 to 42 words. However, they use around 20.000 to 30.000 words.


Final Thoughts

Languages are changing all the time, and therefore their vocabularies as well.

Words are constantly changing, the new ones come, not every year, but every day.

New words don’t mean that English is so hard to learn. On the contrary.

You can be like the language, open-minded, and make a place for more new words.


Boosting your vocabulary in English can only give you benefits. 

For improving your vocabulary, you will need Thesaurus, the dictionary of synonyms and antonyms, Word of the Day that will make you learn at least one new word every day, and of course, Urban Dictionary, the dictionary that is anything but ordinary.

How many English words are there?

There are 171,476 words being used currently.

How many cuss words are there in English?

There are between 1200 to 2000 curse words in English.

How many total English words are there?

There are 20,000 - 30,000 English words.

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