How’s Your Vocabulary?

4 July 2013


A few weeks ago, we talked about building a vocabulary of more ‘precise’ words.


I’ve run across a language-related blog whose writer recently posted about vocabulary size. The blog, ‘Johnson’, named after the famous dictionary writer, Samuel Johnson, covers issues about ‘the use and abuse of languages around the world’.


In May, one of the posts was about vocabulary size, and it linked to another site,, where you could test your own. The test is for all age groups and for anyone around the world.


Vocabulary sizes

Some of the statistics compiled at ‘testyourvocab’ are really interesting:

·      Intermediate-level non-native English speakers have a vocabulary size of around 4,500.

·      Advanced level speakers’ vocabulary size ranges from 8,000 to 10,000 words.

·      Non-native speakers build a vocabulary of around 10,000 words by living abroad (learning an average of 2.5 new words each day).

·      Native-speaker adults’ vocabulary growth basically stops at middle age.


Yikes! I’m ‘middle age’. Maybe I need to do more work on my vocabulary.


Focus on fiction

Another interesting point from statistics at the ‘testyourvocab’ site was that people who read lots of fiction tend to have a larger vocabulary than those who do not. You can see a summary of their statistics here.


This was a little sobering to learn, since I don’t read many fiction books or stories. Because I’m kind of a workaholic, I tend to read non-fiction books and articles related to my industry, which is probably true for many businesspeople.


(I just looked at my list of books to read this summer – and without exception, they’re all non-fiction! [sigh] I need to take a reading ‘holiday’ and relax with some fiction.)


What about you?

What types of things do you tend to read? Fiction? Non-fiction? Industry-related?


Go to and try out the test. (And if you want to report/brag about your results, leave a note in the comments.)


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