The Number of Words in the English Language
The English Language WordClock: 1,005,366
The English Language passed the Million Word threshold on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 a.m. (GMT). The Millionth Word was the controversial ‘Web 2.0′. Currently there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day.
‘Millionth English word’ declared
A US web monitoring firm has declared the millionth English word to be Web 2.0, a term for the latest generation of web products and services.
Matt Frei reports on English’s unique linguistic evolution and then spoke to Global Language Monitor’s Paul Payack who helped find this millionth English word.
BBC NEWS | Programmes | World News America | ‘Millionth English word’ declared
“As expected, English crossed the 1,000,000 word threshold on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 am GMT. However, some 400 years after the death of the Bard, the words and phrases were coined far from Stratford-Upon-Avon, emerging instead from Silicon Valley, India, China, and Poland, as well as Australia, Canada, the US and the UK,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “English has become a universal means of communication; never before have so many people been able to communicate so easily with so many others.”
The English language is now being studies by hundreds of millions around the globe for entertainment, commercial or scientific purposes. In 1960 there were some 250 million English speakers, mostly in former colonies and the Commonwealth countries. The future of English as a major language was very much in doubt. Today, some 1.53 billion people now speak English as a primary, auxiliary, or business language, with some 250 million acquiring the language in China alone.
There are 10,000 other stories hailing the arrival of the 1,000,000th word from Abu Dhabi, and Tehran, to Beijing, to Sydney, to Chicago and Sri Lanka.
Quote of the Week:
“What’s interesting about a million is that it’s such a tiny number compared to all the words we could have,” said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading who studies the comings and goings of words across history. (Using any combination of seven consonants with two vowels, for example, creates more than 100-million potential words.) But even with a relatively small pile to call on, words are mostly fleeting. (The Oxford English Dictionary has a list of words that have appeared on record only once in hundreds of years.) A small number of essential words such as “two” or “you” – or their variations – are ancients in the language family, Dr. Pagel said. “Had you been wandering around the plains of Eurasia 15,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, you probably could have said ‘thou’ and someone would have know you were referring to them. We think that’s pretty astonishing.” Toronto Globe and Mail, June, 2008
Why Twitter was not in running for the 1,000,000th word
Austin, Texas June 13, 2009 – Since the 1,000,000th word in the English announcement earlier this week, a number of news organizations have inquired as to why Twitter, the prominent microblog, was not on the final list of words considered for No. 1,000,000. According to Paul JJ Payack, president and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor, “The answer is quite straight-forward: Twitter is already a word, as is its companion, to tweet. Certainly, the 21st century definition of twittering is much different than that of the Middle English twiteren, which is similar to the Old High German zwizzirōn, both of which mean, well, to twitter or as Merriam-Webster’s defines it “to utter successive chirping noises” or “to talk in a chattering fashion”. Since it is already catalogued as a headword, 21st c. twittering is simply a new entry, a new definition, under the ancient headword, twitter”.
On June 10, the Global Language Monitor announced that Web 2.0 has bested Jai Ho, N00b and Slumdog as the 1,000,000th English word or phrase added to the codex of fourteen hundred-year-old language.
Web 2.0 beats Jai Ho & N00b as 1,000,000th English Word
English passed the Million Word mark earlier today, June 10 at 10:22 am GMT
Word Number 1,000,001: Financial Tsunami
Austin, Texas June 10, 2009 – The Global Language Monitor today announced that Web 2.0 has bested Jai Ho, N00b and Slumdog as the 1,000,000th English word or phrase. added to the codex of fourteen hundred-year-old language. Web 2.0 is a technical term meaning the next generation of World Wide Web products and services. It has crossed from technical jargon into far wider circulation in the last six months. Two terms from India, Jai Ho! and slumdog finished No. 2 and 4. Jai Ho! Is a Hindi exclamation signifying victory or accomplishment; Slumdog is an impolite term for children living in the slums. Just missing the top spot was n00b, a mixture of letters and numbers that is a derisive term for newcomer. It is also the only mainstream English word that contains within itself two numerals. Just missing the final five cut-off, was another technical term, cloud computing, meaning services that are delivered via the cloud. At its current rate, English generates about 14.7 words a day or one every 98 minutes.
These are the fifteen finalists for the one millionth English word, all of which have met the criteria of a minimum of 25,000 citations with the necessary breadth of geographic distribution, and depth of citations.
1,000,000: Web 2.0 – The next generation of web products and services, coming soon to a browser near you.
999,999: Jai Ho! – The Hindi phrase signifying the joy of victory, used as an exclamation, sometimes rendered as “It is accomplished”. Achieved English-language popularity through the multiple Academy Award Winning film, “Slumdog Millionaire”.
999,998: N00b — From the Gamer Community, a neophyte in playing a particular game; used as a disparaging term.
999,997: Slumdog – a formerly disparaging, now often endearing, comment upon those residing in the slums of India.
999,996: Cloud Computing – The ‘cloud’ has been technical jargon for the Internet for many years. It is now passing into more general usage.
999,995: Carbon Neutral — One of the many phrases relating to the effort to stem Climate Change.
999,994: Slow Food — Food other than the fast-food variety hopefully produced locally (locavores).
999,993: Octomom – The media phenomenon relating to the travails of the mother of the octuplets.
999,992: Greenwashing – Re-branding an old, often inferior, product as environmentally friendly.
999,991: Sexting – Sending email (or text messages) with sexual content.
999,990: Shovel Ready – Projects are ready to begin immediately upon the release of federal stimulus funds.
999,989: Defriend – Social networking terminology for cutting the connection with a formal friend.
999,988: Chengguan – Urban management officers, a cross between mayors, sheriff, and city managers.
999,987: Recessionista – Fashion conscious who use the global economic restructuring to their financial benefit.
999,986: Zombie Banks – Banks that would be dead if not for government intervention and cash infusion.
In addition, the 1,000,001st word is Financial Tsunami – The global financial restructuring that seemingly swept out of nowhere, wiping out trillions of dollars of assets, in a matter of months.
Each word was analyzed to determine which depth (number of citations) and breadth (geographic extent of word usage), as well as number of appearances in the global print and electronic media, the Internet, the blogosphere, and social media (such as Twitter and YouTube). The Word with the highest PQI score was deemed the 1,000,000th English language word. The Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI) is used to track and analyze word usage.
Global Language Monitor has been tracking English word creation since 2003. Once it identifies new words (or neologisms) it measures their extent and depth of usage with its PQI technology.
Listen to the segment on Morning Edition
THE WORLD IN WORDS: Top Words of 2008
Essay: The Number of Words in the English Language
There are many things in the Universe that can never be precisely measured but that doesn’t stop Humankind from attempting to take their measure.
For example, there are on the order of:
- 7,000 human languages and dialects (6,912 to be precise);
- About 50,000 ideograms in the various Chinese dialects (though countless more words);
- About 100,000,000,000 stars in the Milky Way galaxy (and some 100,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe);
- Over 35,500,000 residents of California;
- And then there are 10 raised to the power of 72 atomic particles in the universe; that is, precisely:
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atomic particles;
- There are fewer than 100,000 words in the French language;
- There are some some 6.5 billion folks on the planet; (and about 20 billion that have ever walked upon the Earth);
- Fewer than 20,000 different words in the Bible, (actually, 12,143 in the English, 783,137 total in the King James Version, 8,674 in the Hebrew Old Testament, and 5,624 in the Greek New Testament);
- And 24,000 differing words to be found in the complete works of Shakespeare, about 1,700 of which he invented.
Finally, if you emptied all the water out of Lake Tahoe and spread it evenly over all of California it would be about 14 inches deep, Not that anyone would ever attempt to do so. Or actually care.
Which brings us to the number of words in English.
The central idea of writing is, of course, the idea. Ideas by their very nature are wispy sorts of things. This being so, you can’t grab an idea and do with it what you will. Rather the best for which one can hope is to encapsulate the idea and preserve it for time immemorial in some sort of ethereal amber. We call this amber, language; the basic building block of which is, of course, the word. (We are speaking now as poets and not as linguists.)
As such, writers of English have the good fortune of having hundreds of thousands of words from which to choose. When you think of it, the English language writer always has at least three words for any idea, each rooted in the Latin, the Germanic or Saxon tongues, and the Greek. Think of a word for human habitation: city, town, metropolis, and so on. And that’s just the start. In the English-speaking world we also owe a heavy debtto Algonquin, and Hebrew, and Malay (ketchup anyone?) and Maori, and Zulu and Hmong among a multitude of others. I think you can spot the beginnings of a trend here.
And then there is the entire realm of ”jargon,” scientific and otherwise, those specialized patois or vocabularies known only to those in specific fields. Computer-related jargon is multiplying at an extraordinary rate. And since English has become the lingua Franca of the Internet, English words are being created and non-English words co-opted at an ever-quickening pace.
Scientists estimate that there are approximately 10,000,000,000 neurons in a typical human brain. Each of these neurons can theorectically interconnect with all the rest.
This being so, the number of interconnects within a single human brain is greater than the entire number of atomic particles in the universe.
If you equate these interconnects to ideas, or even thoughts, the number of potential words needed to express them is, indeed, staggering on the order of billions and billions of trillions.
This being said, I now unequivocally state that as of the 10th day of June in the year 2009 AD (or CE, whatever your preference), we estimate that there were some 1,000,000 words in the English language, plus or minus a handful.
Choose well among them.
Austin, Texas, USA