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Average Vocabulary Size

Estimates of average vocabulary size range from 20,000 to 70,000 words depending upon which experts you listen to and how they define a word. When expressing themselves, most people can think to use well under half the words they recognize when others use them. Larger vocabularies are strongly correlated with academic and professional success.

The King James Bible uses about 8,000 headwords. Shakespeare's works use about 20,000.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary contains over:
263,000 main entries
476,000 entries
700,000 definitions

Most experts count run and running as two forms of the same word. You might think of it as counting headwords in the dictionary.

Words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings (such as the bark of a dog, or the bark around a tree) are typically treated as different words.

Nation, national, and nationalize are traditionally counted as three different words. Similarly, unsatisfactory is traditionally counted as a separate word than satisfactory.

Proper nouns and acronyms such as New York City, Shakespeare, and the FBI all impart generally shared verbal concepts, but experts are divided on whether they include them when estimating vocabulary size.