How Many Words Are In the English Language?

How Many Words Are In the English Language 2021?

Every person who is interested in learning English probably thought about this question at some point – how many words are in the English language? It’s hard to get a clear answer simply by opening a dictionary, so let’s delve into curious world of English and research this topic together. 
 
Amount of English terms people know and use can be drastically different for various historical periods, stratum of society, etc. There will also be quite a gap between the number of words people use in their day-to-day lives, as opposed to those that we encounter in literature. 

How Many Words Are In the English Dictionary?

This question is perhaps even harder to answer than the one about the total number of English terms. Every dictionary is different – they have varying capacities, differently recognize what constitutes a word, have different release dates. Plus, neologisms are created every day. Just think about it – English vocabulary received numerous new entries due to 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, including peculiar novelty terms such as “covidiot” and “WFH” (an acronym for “work from home”). Therefore, when it comes to pinpointing the number of words in an English dictionary, we should consult with a few well-known and authoritative sources. 

Merriam-Webster online dictionary informs its readers that their latest official edition includes approximately 470,000 entries. Main page of Oxford English Dictionary official website states that they cover over 600,000 terms. At the same time, latest published edition of Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary offers its readers information about over 60,000 words. In its turn, Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has approximately 140,000 entries. Collins English Dictionary covers a whopping number of words – 750,000. Additionally, if we consult Wikipedia, we find out that their English Wiktionary includes about 520,000 words

As we see, the question about the amount of words in English dictionary is a tricky one, because there are hundreds of online and published books that people use. Amount of terms they cover varies depending on many factors, including a year of publishing, as well as book of word meanings type. Even if you know all the words from an average English dictionary, sometimes it’s not enough. There are cases when fluency doesn’t guarantee proper translation. If you need a certified translation done professionally, contact USCIS translation services.  

How Many Words in the English Language Are Slang and Jargon? 

If common words are hard to put a number on, you can only imagine how abundant modern slang is and how much bulk it adds to present-day English language. To start with, dictionaries define “slang” differently. For instance, Merriam-Webster states that it can be used about informal and niche-specific words, while Collins dictionary adds that slang terms are commonly used by people who are very familiar with each other. Although terms "slang" and "jargon" are often used interchangeably, the latter is commonly defined a bit differently, as specific technical, hybrid, or simplified terms which are often used by people of the same group, profession, or in association with a specific activity, for example, a type of sport.

Jargon

Jargon often prevents people from performing a high-quality document translation. Medical document translation services and translators who work in a specific field are aware of special terms or abbreviations that an average person will fail to translate right. How many words in English dictionary are literary? Surely, we often use words like “bummer”, “lame”, “chill”, “ripped” and countless others, but although it’s hard to imagine excluding them from our vocabulary, you’re unlikely to discover them in printed vocabularies. While those are not literary terms, they often help us convey a specific idea or meaning that is hard to deliver in dictionary terms.

Slang

When people attempt translating from a language they are not very familiar with, slang terms often are the biggest challenge. In these cases contacting a professional may be the best choice, especially when it comes to extra-difficult languages. You can rely on these Mandarin translation services if you need a good Chinese translation.

As you can imagine, there is no conclusive number of slang words in English language. Because of globalization, mass media, traveling, and other factors modern languages are more exposed to one another than ever before, which leads to word borrowing and the creation of many neologisms. Every language is dynamic, it changes every second, bringing us novelty phrases and peculiar terms we can incorporate into our lexicon to enrich it and make communication more easy and fun.

Number of Words in English Language Comparing To Other Languages

Global language monitoring website estimates that there are over a million English words, and authoritative resources like Merriam-Webster tend to agree. Of course, most of them are terms that our day-to-day communication is devoid of for different reasons – including archaic terms, words specific to a certain science, or a different part of the world. 

Comparing to other languages, English has an edge when it comes to word count, being the lingua franca (a.k.a. common language) of modern world. Let’s see how many words does the English language have in comparison to world’s commonly used languages.

  • Italian

According to authoritative Italian dictionary Grande dizionario italiano dell'uso, there are about 260,000 words in Italian. Dictionary Devoto Oli in its turn estimates that there are about 100,000 Italian terms, while another commonly used dictionary Zingarelli counts about 145,000 words

  • Spanish

Spanish language has over 300,000 words, although their number will depend on the source we consult. Thus, The Collins Spanish Dictionary contains 130,000 words, El Diccionario de La Real Academia Española has 93,000 entries, El Diccionario de Americanismos counts 70,000 entries, while El Diccionario Histórico de la Lengua Española has about 150,000 entries, including archaisms and obsolete terms.

  • French

Most French books of word meanings estimate the number of words to be around 60,000, but Le Grand Robert de la langue Française has around 100,000 entries. Other dictionaries provide other data – Le Larousse counts 59,000 French terms, while Le Littré counts 132,000 commonly used French terms. 

  • Russian

Now as you know how many words are there in the English language, Russian, in comparison, has only about 150,000 words. Russian dictionaries don’t usually include jargon, archaic or specialized terms. For example, Dal's Explanatory Dictionary counts 200,000 entries, while The Large Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language counts 130,000 entries.

  • German

German dictionaries cover different amounts of words, too. For example, latest edition of Rechtschreibdudens counts about 148,000 terms, while Deutsche Wörterbuch has about 450,000. That said, modern German vocabulary counts about 300,000-400,000 words.

 

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English Speakers’ Average Vocabulary

You may wonder how many words in English language constitute an average vocabulary. Science magazine states that modern 20 y.o. US citizen possesses a vocabulary of approximately 42,000 terms, which is confirmed by UPI’s research. In its turn, The Economist reports that adult Americans know about 30,000 words

For those who still learn English, these numbers seem unsurmountable. But don’t be discouraged! Experts say that you need only 5,000-10,000 words to be proficient. If your English is not sufficient yet, you can use online translation services for any of your linguistic needs. Such services can be of great help while you work on your vocabulary.

This is Getting Wordy

As you see, the number of words in the English language is beyond tricky to determine. It can be confusing, but you should remember that different dictionaries include (or disregard) various terms based on their own criteria – they can even define the term “word” differently! For some books of word meanings, archaic or novelty terms don’t make the cut, while others choose to include them. All in all, there’s no finite number of English words – modern lexicon fluctuates and changes daily.