Which Are the Most Frequently Used and Transcribed Words in English?
25 October 2015

Which Are the Most Frequently Used and Transcribed Words in English?

1,025,109.8 – this is the number of words in the English language, estimated by the Global Language Monitor on January 1, 2014. It is hard to image that somebody will ever use all of them (how about pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanocon) but some of them really appear in almost every sentence. Which ones? Which do you think are the most frequently used words in English? Try to guess the top 10 before reading this article.

Got some 3-4 words?

If this looks just like fun to you, we ought to make known it is nothing but a grueling linguistic work. Mark Mayzner was a researcher who studied the frequency of letter combinations in English words. In 1965 he published Tables of Single-letter and Digram Frequency Counts for Various Word-length and Letter-position Combinations, which has been citied in hundreds of articles. 47 years later Mayzner, at the age of 85, contacted Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google. He supposed that Norvig’s “group at Google might be interested in using the computing power that is now available to significantly expand and produce such tables as I constructed some 50 years ago, but now using the Google Corpus Data, not the tiny 20,000 word sample that I used.”

The Director of Research’s answer was short and clear: “Yes, indeed! I am interested!” He explains briefly in his blog the way the most frequent English words were identified.

Transcribers work with an impromptu, ‘live’ language – 1:1 the way it’s been recorded. We bet all of them would confirm that these are the words they need to put down the most. Some more tiny words such as with, be, was, on, not, I can be lumped here as well. Wait a minute – they are all very short! What is the case with the longer and more meaningful ones? Grab your notebook and enjoy this riveting video with the most frequently used words in the English language.