How Many Words Are In The English Language?

Two weeks ago I wrote about how the word selfie was named the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2013.

Being named Word of the Year has got to be a big deal for a word, especially when you consider it was up against such great words like, snollygoster, flibbertigibbet and gobbledygook.

The more I thought about that, the more I started wondering about the number of words selfie must have been competing with.

Being named Word of the Year is much different from an award like NBA Coach of the Year where only 30 choices are up for the honor.

There has got to be thousands of words that exist in the English language. If not millions. Whatever the number, I know it is at least more that 30, right?

That is what I am wondering today…how many words can be found in the English language?

According to Oxford Dictionaries, that is not a simple question to answer. Here’s what they say:

“It’s impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it’s so hard to decide what actually counts as a word. Is dog one word, or two (a noun meaning ‘a kind of animal’, and a verb meaning ‘to follow persistently’)? If we count it as two, then do we count inflections separately too (e.g. dogs = plural noun, dogs = present tense of the verb). Is dog-tired a word, or just two other words joined together? Is hot dog really two words, since it might also be written as hot-dog or even hotdog?”

Oxford goes on to explain that the Second Edition of the 20-volume  Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words.

So while we might not know an exact number of words, we can clearly say that it is over 200,000. That is a lot of words.

I guess that is why word of the day calendars never go extinct.

Another interesting story I found says that a new word is created every 98 minutes, which equals about 14.7 words per day.

I find that fascinating.

Who creates these new words every 98 minutes? And who accepts that they are actual words and not just gobbledygook?

I think we all should get to create a new word.

If anyone has a fun new word they would like to create, let me know in the comment section below. Be sure to include the definition so that we can learn what it means.

(Side note, how many of you looked up snollygoster & flibbertigibbet to see if they were real words or not??)

2 thoughts on “How Many Words Are In The English Language?

  1. That many new words each day? That’s crazy! And yes, I contemplated looking up those words but I’m exhausted and going to sleep instead.

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