English Language Facts
English Language Facts

46 Bizarre Facts about the English Language

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published June 25, 2018
  • A pangram is a sentence that contains every letter in the language. For example, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."[20]
  • The shortest and oldest word in the English language is "I."[18]
  • An ambigram is a word that looks the same from various orientations. For example, the word "swims" will be the same even when turned upside down.[2]
  • English is the official language for maritime and aeronautical communications.[16]
  • English is the third most spoken native language in the world. Standard Chinese and Spanish are first and second, respectively.[24]
  • If you wrote out all the numbers (e.g. one, two, three . . . ), you would not use the letter "b" until the word "billion."[12]
  • Strange English Facts
    The longest word in the English language is not "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"
  • The longest word in the English language is 45 letters long: "Pneumonoultramicroscopic-silicovolcanoconiosis." It is the scientific name for a type of lung disease.[27]
  • Almost all of the 100 most frequently used words in English come from Old English. These words include, "a," "the," "and," pronouns, prepositions and conjunctions (from, with, when), and the various forms of the verbs "to have" and "to be."[10]
  • The Oxford English Corpus contains over 2.5 billion words. The Oxford English Corpus is a collection of 21st-century texts and is used to track the way English changes over time.[25]
  • Most average adult English speakers know between 20,000–35,000 words.[22]
  • Words have a lifespan of anywhere between 1,000 and 20,000 years. More commonly used words tend to last longer.[10]
  • Those who read fiction have a larger vocabulary than those who do not. Fiction usually contains a wider range of vocabulary than nonfiction does.[22]
  • More people in the world have learned English as a second language than there are native English speakers.[24]
  • The English language is nobody's special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.

    - Derek Walcott

  • Shakespeare added 1,700 words to the English language during his lifetime.[17]
  • A new word is created every 98 minutes, which is about 14.7 words a day.[17]
  • In 2018, approximately 1.53 billion people speak English as a primary, auxiliary, or business language. This is about 1 in 7 people on Earth.[17]
  • The letter "e" is the most commonly used letter in the English language.[28]
  • Only one word in all of English has the letters X, Y, and Z in order: Hydroxyzine. This unique word is a type of medicine that prevents sneezing and anxiety.[8]
  • Though not commonly used, the day after tomorrow is called "overmorrow."[19]
  • English is the most commonly used language in the sciences.[14]
  • The 1066 Norman Conquest drastically changed the English language. When the Normans (French) conquered England, they brought with them thousands of French words associated with the church, court systems, and government, such as baron, noble, parliament, governor, banquet.[14]
  • Norman Conquest Fact
    The Norman Conquest changed the English language forever

  • English is not the official language of the United States.[11]
  • An anagram is a rearrangement of the letters in a word or phrase to form a different word or phrase. For example, the word "stifle" is an anagram of "itself."[23]
  • The most complex word in the English language is "set." This small word has over 430 definitions and requires a 60,000 word definition that covers 24 pages in the Oxford English Dictionary.[15]
  • There are only five words in the English language that consist of all vowels (aa, ae, ai, oe, and eau).[23]
  • The word "queue" sounds the same even if the last four letters are removed. Before it meant "line," a queue meant the tail of a beast in medieval pictures and designs.[8]
  • The longest common word with all the letters in alphabetical order is "almost."[23]
  • More English words begin with the letter "s" than any other letter.[12]
  • Fun English Facts
    It has been estimated that the vocabulary of English includes roughly 1 million words, but this is a very rough estimate

  • The word "synonym" is one of the few words in the English language that doesn't have a synonym.[23]
  • The word "good" has the most synonyms of any other word in the English language, at 380.[23]
  • Yes, there is a word in English meaning "shapely buttocks." That word is "callipygian." It is from the Greek "kallipygos," meaning kallos (beauty) + pyge (buttocks).[4]
  • The longest common word with no vowels is "rhythms."[23]
  • The most commonly misused word in the English language is "ironic." Irony is often confused with sarcasm, coincidence, or paradox.[13]
  • "Rhinorrhea" is the medical term for "runny nose."[21]
  • The first number spelled out that contains an "a" is one thousand.[23]
  • China has more English speakers than the United States.[10]
  • The English words "moose," opossum," "pecan," "raccoon," "skunk," and "squash" originated from the now-extinct language of the Algonquian people. They were a native tribe that lived at the site of the earliest English colony on what is now Roanoke Island in the United States.[26]
  • The opposite of "sparkle" is "darkle."[6]
  • Interesting English Facts
    A shorter version is "Ev"
  • The word “whatever” consistently ranks as the most annoying English word.[23]
  • The language that is most closely related to English is Frisian, a West Germanic language spoken in parts of the Netherlands and Germany.[1][27]
  • The longest word you can make using only four letters is "senseless."[23]
  • The word "good-bye" is a contraction of "God be with ye."[9]
  • The most commonly used noun in the English language is the word "time."[3]
  • The word "the" is the most commonly used English word overall, followed by "be," "to," "of," "and," "a," "in," "that," "have," and "I."[3]
  • The 25 Most Common Nouns in the English Language[5454]
    1. time
    2. person
    3. year
    4. way
    5. day
    6. thing
    7. man
    8. world
    9. life
    10. hand
    11. part
    12. child
    13. eye
    14. woman
    15. place
    16. work
    17. week
    18. case
    19. point
    20. government
    21. company
    22. number
    23. group
    24. problem
    25. fact
    Acronyms that have Become Accepted English Words[5454]
    SCUBAself-contained underwater breating apparatus
    SNAFUsituation normal, all fouled up (or a differed "F" word)
    LASERlight amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation
    RADARradio detection and ranging
    SONARsound navigation and ranging
    MODEMmodulator/demodulator
    YUPPIEyoung urban professional
    Fun English Contronyms (Words with Contrary Meanings) [5473]
    WordContronymic Definition
    ApologyA statement of contrition for an action, or a defense of one
    BillA payment, or an invoice for payment
    BoltTo secure, or to flee
    BoundHeading to a destination, or restrained from movement
    BuckleTo connect, or to break or collapse
    CleaveTo adhere, or to separate
    ClipTo fasten, or detach
    DustTo add fine particles, or to remove them
    FastQuick, or stuck or made stable
    FineExcellent, or acceptable or good enough
    GarnishTo furnish, as with food preparation, or to take away, as with wages
    LeftRemained, or departed
    LetAllowed, or hindered
    RefrainTo desist from doing something, or to repeat
    RockAn immobile mass of stone or figuratively similar phenomenon, or a shaking or unsettling movement or action
    SpliceTo join, or to separate
    StrikeTo hit, or to miss in an attempt to hit
    TrimTo decorate, or to remove excess from
    Wind upTo end, or to start up
    Brief History of the English Language 
    DateEvent
    6000 BCThe English Channel is formed, cutting of the British Isles from mainland Europe.
    600 BCThe first languages in the British Isles are Celtic languages, such as Welsh and Scots Gaelic. Words of Celtic origin include bog, clan, glen, pet, slew, slogan, trousers.
    55 BCThe Romans invade Britian and introduce Latin.
    450 ADAnglo-Saxons, the first people who spoke the langauge which over time evolved into English, conquer England. Their language is often called Ango-Saxon or Old English. Many wordS still exist, such as cow, house, bread, and sword. 
    475
    The Undley Bracteate medallion is found in Lakenheath in Suffock, which is the first evidence of written English.
    731The VenerabLe Bede completes his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, which is the first text to mention the English language and the English people.
    800Vikings from Denmark and Norway begin to invade Britain. They leave behind several words in EnglisH, such as "you," "husband," "law," and "anger.
    871King Alfred of Wessex is the first person to call the language English
    1066The Normans from Fance invade England and bring with them an early form of French, which becomes the high-status language in Engalnd. 
    1362On October 13, the Chancellor of England opens Parliament with a speech in English rather than French for the first time.
    1400English begins to supercede French again, and Middle English begins to develop. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is published. 
    1476The printing press revolutionizes society. Interest grows in creating a standard way of writing English.
    1520William Tyndale translates the New Testament into English, which meant more people could read the Bible themselves. The Catholic Church tortured and burned Tyndale at the stake for his efforts. 
    1550British scholars introduce more Latin and Greek words into English.
    1580William Shakespeare infuses the English langauge with his sonnets and plays. He also invents words, which are still used today.
    1611The King James Bible is published.
    1655The first newspaper in English, the London Gazette is first published.
    1755Samuel Johnson publishes his Dictionary of the English Language, which helps standarize spelling.
    1922The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) begins transmission, which dramatically influenced the way English is used and spoken.
    2015The Oxford English Dictionary honors "emoji" as its Word of the Year.
    The Ten Most Common Letters in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary
    LetterPercentage of Words
    1. E11.1607
    2. A8.4966
    3. R7.5809
    4. I7.5448
    5. O7.1635
    6. T6.9509
    7. N6.6544
    8. S5.7351
    9. L5.4893
    10. C4.5388
    Crazy English Language Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    English Language Infographic
  • The plural of cul-de-sac is culs-de-sac.[5]
  • The word "embox" means to "place something in a box."[7]
References

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