It takes a lot of work to pin down the exact number of words in the English language. The first reason is that dictionaries exclude technical terms that are too long or obscure to be common in general usage. The second reason is that it’s difficult to compare the number of words in English with those in other languages because different dictionaries count words differently. Moreover, some words are inflected or used with other forms (such as “drive,” “drives,” and “drove”), which complicates the count.
Another problem is that languages constantly change, and new words enter and exit the vocabulary yearly. In 2010, research by Harvard University and Google estimated that there are 1,022,000 English words, which is growing annually.
English as an evolving language
English has become the dominant language of international communication and academic publishing, particularly in science, technology, medicine, and social sciences. Many prominent universities worldwide offer educational programs in English; the best dissertation help services provide academic writing assistance in English – English has become an influential asset in speaking and writing in different fields.
And as English constantly evolves, it welcomes new words from around the world. From technology to pop culture, there is no shortage of new terms that make their way into dictionaries. At the same time, some words become obsolete as they fall out of fashion or cease to be relevant in the context of modern communication. As such, it isn’t easy to know exactly how many English words there are.
The second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary has information on 171,476 words that are still used today and another 47,156 words that are no longer in use. Another big dictionary, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, has even more words. With its update from 1993, it has around 470,000 words in total.
English as a medium for research
Researchers seek to find the number of words in the English language for various reasons:
Lexicographers aim to compile comprehensive dictionaries to document the language’s vocabulary. They strive to include as many words as possible to provide a comprehensive resource for language users.
Linguists study the structure and evolution of languages. Analyzing the size and growth of a language’s lexicon can provide insights into its development and the influence of external factors.
Language educators and learners are interested in understanding the scope of a language’s vocabulary to aid in language acquisition and teaching.
To research the number of words in English, lexicographers, and linguists typically employ corpus analysis, which involves collecting and analyzing extensive written and spoken texts to identify and categorize words. They also consider factors like word frequency and usage to determine which words are part of the standard lexicon.
English words in different fields
English has a large number of words that have fallen out of use. These are often obsolete scientific terms and specialized jargon that is no longer used in daily conversation. However, many of these words still linger in historical texts and dictionaries.
Language enthusiasts and scholars occasionally resurrect these words in literary works or discussions, highlighting the rich tapestry of linguistic history that underpins the English lexicon.
Having a good vocabulary is essential for communicating effectively in English. However, it is also important to know which words have multiple meanings. This helps avoid confusion and misinterpretation, especially when using slang or jargon. For example, “keep” can be used as both a verb and a noun. Some English words can even have dozens of meanings.
The number of words associated with a particular field often reflects the complexity and specificity of that domain. While it’s challenging to pinpoint exact numbers, we can discuss the general distribution of words in some key fields:
Academics and Science
Academic and scientific fields tend to have a wide range of specialized terminology and jargon. Additionally, fields like philosophy and literature have rich vocabularies for discussing abstract and nuanced ideas.
Technology and Computers
With the rapid advancement of technology, fields related to computers, software, and the internet have seen substantial growth in specialized terminology.
Law and Business
Legal and business domains also feature extensive vocabularies, with specific terminology for contracts, regulations, financial transactions, and corporate governance.
Medicine and Healthcare
The medical and healthcare fields have vast and specialized vocabularies to describe diseases, medical procedures, pharmaceuticals, and anatomical structures.
Arts and Entertainment
The arts, including music, film, and visual arts, encompass various descriptive terms, techniques, and styles.
Future changes in English words
English is likely to continue enriching its vocabulary in the coming years. As new technologies, scientific discoveries, cultural shifts, and societal changes occur, the language will adapt by creating new words and expressions to describe these phenomena. This is a natural and ongoing process that has characterized the development of the language throughout its history.
As for estimating the exact number of words in English in the next couple of years, it’s impossible to provide a specific figure. English vocabulary growth is ongoing and decentralized. While some terms may fall out of use, new ones are constantly being coined and adopted. Additionally, the number of words in a language is not static; it can vary depending on factors such as inclusion criteria in dictionaries and language usage trends.
Language authorities like dictionary publishers and linguistic researchers may track and document new words, but providing an exact count is complex and dynamic. English will continue to adapt, evolve, and expand its vocabulary to meet the needs of its speakers in the years to come.
My name is Arslan Hussain and I am co-founder of The Different Languages blog. Have years of experience in digital marketing, My best hobby is blogging and feel awesome to spend time in it.