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Interesting Word Facts

Did you know that the English language has more words than any other language? Interesting facts about spoonerisms, homophones, emordinlaps, acronyms and oxymorons. You may also be interested in visiting our word quiz.

  1. The word 'child' has a plural by adding an '-en' to make 'children'. There are only two other words in the English language which have such plural endings, and they are 'oxen' and 'brethren'.
  2. The words 'swims', 'dollop', 'suns' and 'pod' read the same when rotated through 180 degrees. Such words are known as rotational ambigrams. An ambigram is a word or other symbolic representation whose elements retain meaning when viewed from a different direction, orientation, or perspective.
  3. The word 'uncopyrightable' is the longest word in the English language that contains no repeated letters.

  4. An acronym is a word formed as an abbreviation from the initial letters in a phrase or a word, usually individual letters (e.g. laser) and sometimes syllables (e.g. Benelux).
  5. An anacronym is an acronym that has become so natural in our language that the phrase it originally stood for has now almost been forgotten. For example, 'light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation' has become laser, and 'self-contained underwater breathing apparatus' is better known as scuba.
  6. The most common vowel in English is 'E', followed next by 'A'. The most common consonant is 'R', followed by 'T'. Eleven percent of the entire English language is just the letter 'E', however, only one letter in every 510 is a 'Q'.
  7. An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which contradictory terms appear side by side. Common oxymorons include: old news, working vacation, small crowd, bitter sweet, crash landing, open secret, and deafening silence.
  8. An 'Oxford comma' is a comma placed before the word 'and' at the end of a list. For example: 'John excells at football, rugby, and athletics'.
  9. An ananym is a word that reverses the letters of an existing word. For example, 'pot' from 'top'.
  10. In the past decade the following words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary... bromance, chillaxing, copyleft, cot potato, cyberbully, gastropub, hotspot, jeggings, me time, nano break, nonliner, overparenting, selfie, shabby-chic, staycation, street food, trolling, and upskill.
  11. The first documented appearance of the word 'nerd' is in the 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss. Charles Dickens is credited with first coining the word 'boredom' in his classic 1853 novel Bleak House and Sir Walter Scott invented the word freelance in his 1819 novel Ivanhoe.
  12. In a 1763 letter from Naturalist Gilbert White the letter 'x' was first used to represent a kiss.
  13. The dot over the letters 'i' or 'j' is called a 'tittle'.
  14. The most common adjective is ‘good’ and the most commonly used noun is ‘time’. The word ‘set’ has the highest number of definitions.
  15. The infinity sign, ∞, is called a lemniscate - it means 'decorated with ribbons' in Latin. Other mathematical names include a 'catenary curve', which is the curve formed when a rope or chain is left to hang under its own weight when supported only at its ends; a 'torus' is the name for a doughnut shape with a hollow inside; 'calclus' is Latin for pebble, and a 'hectogon' is a one hundred sided polygon. Just for fun, an 'enneacontakaienneagon' is a 99-sided polygon!
  16. A word whose meaning changes depending on whether it is capitalized or not is called a capitonym - examples are Turkey and turkey, Polish and polish.
  17. The word 'bump" first appeared in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare coined an amazing amount of words, although, many historians think certain words just get attributed to Shakespeare and he didn't really invent them! However, we'll list just a few of his credited words... advertising, bandit, bedroom, champion, critic, elbow, eyeball, frugal, gloomy, hint, hobnob, lonely, obscene, obsequiously, ode, olympian, scuffle, summit, torture, undress, worthless, zany, and approximately 1700 others.

  18. In 1783, Frenchman Louis-Sebastien Lenormand made the first recorded public 'parachute' jump - however, the word 'parachute' was not coined until two years later by hybridizing the Latin prefix para (to shield) with the French word chute (fall). Similarly, the word 'parasol' is a combination of para and sol (Spanish for sun) - 'shield from the sun'.
  19. A demonym is a word referring to an inhabitant of a place. In English, most demonyms are predictable and use an added suffix like –an (Roman), –ian (Parisian), –er (Londoner), or –ese (Japanese). There are many irregularities though, like Neapolitan (Naples), Glaswegian (Glasgow), Muscovite (Moscow), Damascene (Damascus), and Monagasque (Monaco).
  20. ‘Queueing’ is the only word with five vowels in a row. And the word 'queue' is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same when the last four letters are removed.
  21. English is the official language in 67 countries. These include Belize, Ghana, Kenya, Malta, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and Tonga.
  22. A palindrome is a word or phrase which reads the same backwards as it does forwards (e.g. the pop group ABBA). The longest palindrome in the Oxford English Dictionary is tattarrattat - coined by author James Joyce in Ulysses for a 'knock on the door'.
  23. Emordinlap is a word that spells a completely different word when it is read backwards. Hence brag becomes grab, reward becomes drawer, stressed becomes desserts, and so on.
  24. Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and mostly different spellings, like son and sun, hair and hare, or pole and poll.
  25. Have you ever wondered why computer keyboards are not set out in alphabetical order? In early typewriters, the letters needed to be positioned so that the most commonly used ones were not next to each other enabling the mechanical rods which held the letters not to clash too much. Hence the 'QWERTY' keyboard.
  26. A pangram sentence is one that contains every letter of the alphabet. The best known example is 'the quick, brown fox jumps over the lazy dog'.
  27. 'Town' is the oldest English word that is still in use.
  28. Sarah Palin compared herself to William Shakespeare when she coined the word 'refudiate'. There is no such word but it didn't stop Palin using it in a 2010 Fox News interview and later on her 'twitter' page.
  29. Bushisms are unconventional words, sentences and linguistic errors in the public speaking of former American President George W. Bush. They include the two sentences: 'Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we', and 'they misunderestimated me'.
  30. A malapropism is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous speech. For example, 'the flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city' (in which evaporate replaces evacuate). The word 'malapropism' comes from the character 'Mrs. Malaprop' in Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals.
  31. The word dinosaur was invented in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen. It literally means 'terrible, powerful, wondrous lizards'. Before 1841, the word mostly associated with describing a dinosaur was dragon!
  32. More words invented in circa Victorian times (1837-1901)... ambulance (1809), hike (1809), stethoscope (1820), omnibus (1829), cereal (1832), acne (1835), lingerie (1835), mackintosh (1836), croquet (1858), magenta (1860), rugby (1864), pasta (1874), badminton (1874), and leotard (1886).
  33. Named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), a spoonerism is a deliberate play on words or an error in speech in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched. Example are 'it is kisstomary to cuss the bride' and 'The Lord is a shoving leopard'.
  34. The longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order is 'almost'. And 'rhythm' is the longest word without a vowel.
  35. The word goodbye has been spoken since the sixteenth century. It comes from the religious way to say farewell 'God be with ye' which got contracted to godbwye. And bye-bye, first used in the early 1700s, was originally a phrase used to lull a child to sleep.
  36. Until about 450 years ago there was no word for the colour orange.
  37. There are words that exist only in plural form. Examples include pyjamas, jeans, binoculars, scissors, gallows, and glasses (spectacles).
  38. Marmalade, potato, zebra, caramel, buffalo, breeze, and commando are all English words of Portuguese origin.
  39. We believe that the most difficult tongue twister in the English language is “sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick'. What do you think?

Decades in Words - the decade in which some new words were added to the dictionary.

  1. 1900s: barfly, natterer, ballyhoo, nuanced, wassup, dramedy, radio, rubbernecking, hands-on, bootleg, car boot, airliner, do-gooder.
  2. 1910s: ad-lib, record player, roomie, melt-in-the-mouth, outdoorsy, rubber stamping, environmentalism, yes-man, celeb, ice-skate, back-to-nature, low-budget, airmail, pastiche, headstand.
  3. 1920s: mastermind, howzat, housesharing, spacecraft, perm, hitch-hike, abseil, blokeish, radio star, can-do, freebie, party-crasher, air-conditioned, ciao
  4. 1930s: freeloader, babysitter, clone, caffeinated, globalize, eek, photomontage, al dente, baddie, face-lift, bunny hop
  5. 1940s: acronym, bad-mouth, ear-bending, binge drinker, gobbledygook, beanie, mobile phone, skinny-dip, arty-farty, orbit, TV, queue-jumping, newspeak, foo fighter, bake-off, technophobe.
  6. 1950s: big bang, digital television, blast-off, Eurovision, frenemy, droid, nit pick, hands-free, artificial intelligence, decaf, photocall, keepy-up, trainspotting, oenophilic, brainwash.
  7. 1960s: chocoholic, bog-standard, bouffy, blag, in-joke, cyberculture, people-watch, megastar, rockumentary, cyberculture, foodaholic, gasp, Beatlesque, expat.
  8. 1970s: Bollywood, laugh-out-loud, Monty guilt trip, braniac, Pythonesque, recyclist, gazilllion, pootle, nip and tuck, clapometer, jobsworth, Warholian, number-crunch, outie, red card, bagsy, metaphoricity, reboot.
  9. 1980s: smartphone, foodie, text messaging, chill pill, air guitar, spell-check, downloadable, gobsmacked, mono-brow, shopaholic, channel surf, bazillionaire, BOGOF, app, road rage, beat box, turducken, crowd-surfing, ecotourism.
  10. 1990s: auto-complete, emoticon,Y2K, blog, poptastic, scratchiti, cybercafe, bridezilla, dotcom, bling, fashionista, muggle, hot desk, wiki.
  11. 2000s: paywall, crowdsourcing, parkour, bromance, traceur, flash mob, goldendoodle, Sudoku, podcast, chip and PIN, defriend, geocaching.
  12. 2010s: brain fart, wine o'clock, fat-shame, Brexit, sapiosexual, jorts, bitcoin, selfie, street food, twerk, omnishambles, vort, manspreading.

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