Word Counts and Vocabulary Usages

About the amount of words used by people of different ages, education levels, and backgrounds including famous authors.


Men, even those most highly developed, often make only sparing use of the many possibilities open to them. This applies indeed to man's own creation, language.

It is excusable that a child 5 years old use only 1%, or 1,500, of the 150,000 "dictionary" words that a modern language contains. But this small treasury is used very intensively by him during the years of learning-the "silver age" - at the rate of about 1,000 words an hour, or from 7,000 to 15,000 words each day for an active child.

School quickly increases his vocabulary, but leaves him with less opportunity for using it; the gold of silence-attention-makes his silvery little voice dumb. At 10 years old, his treasury amounts to 7,000 words, of which about 30% are used actively (the remainder is seldom or never used), and in an hour he will use about 700 words.

On entrance to a university, his word inventory will have grown to 20,000, and on graduation to 60,000, but of these only 10% to 20% will be inactive use-a normal proportion in general.

For the average citizen, the vocabulary is estimated to include 3,000 words.

Naturally the literary experts are greater "language consumers." It has been determined that an average American journalist uses but 6,000 words in his newspaper articles, or 4% of the available arsenal.

However, at a higher literary level, it has been determined that Victor Hugo used an active vocabulary of 38,000 words; Shakespeare, 24,000; and Homer, 8,500. But Horace, with 4,600 words, came significantly below the American journalist, and Xenophon, with 3,200, was about equal to the present-day "average citizen."

It is also of interest that the vocabulary figures for the Old Testament, with 5,800 words, and the New Testament, with 4,800 words, are less than the words in a present-day newspaper, which uses about 6,000.

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