Hey guys, I am having a discussion with my mexican friend about which of the two languages has more words. I think it is English but she says it is Spanish. Does anyone know the answer? Thanks

  • Posted Apr 5, 2011
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5 Answers



English - about 1,000,000

Spanish - about 500,000

link text have a look here. 1,009,614 words in the English language.

One reason that English has a larger vocabulary is that it is a language with Germanic origins but a tremendous Latin influence, an influence so great that sometimes English seems more like French than it does like Danish, another Germanic language. The merging of two streams of language into English is one reason why we have both the words "late" and "tardy," words often interchangeable, while Spanish (at least as an adverb) has only tarde. The most similar influence that happened to Spanish was an infusion of Arabic vocabulary, but the influence of Arabic on Spanish isn't close to the influence of Latin on English.

  • Thanks ian-hill. Where did you get the information? - dsmith70 Apr 5, 2011
  • Oxford English Dictionary only has 600,000 words. Every source you look at gives a completely different number. - rabbitwho Apr 5, 2011
  • Yes, my figures are slightly different, but I've always heard that English has the vastest vocabulary. That frightens, but with the time I'd say that I don't perceive such a difference. - cogumela Apr 5, 2011
  • What about different conjugations of a verb. Those are not accounted for in the dictionaries. - 00e657d4 Apr 5, 2011
  • Why should they be counted? - it still only one verb. - ian-hill Apr 5, 2011


Which language has the greatest amount of words?

Ask an Arab, and it will be Arabic.

Ask an Italian, and it will be Italian.

Ask a Greek, and it will be Greek.

Ask an Englishman, and it will be English.

Ask a Spaniard, and it will be Spanish.

Ask a Jew, and it will be Hebrew.

  • I don't think that's true at all. And anyway it's a fact that trade langauges like Spanish and English and Chinese have more languages than ones like Italian or Hebrew. - rabbitwho Apr 5, 2011


every language is totally different. Even every dictionary of the same language show us a different number of words. It all depends on the possibilities of a language (the speaking, because some languages just can't make more sounds to make more words). Like in chinese, they use the same words for totally different meanings, 1 word can have 15 meanings and more. So we can say that they have less words than spanish. And we must take into account that every single word of a language has its usefullness - in english if we know about 5000 words we can be sure that we will understand 99 % of what is being said to us in english, not talking about the specified language, like chemical. In spanish we use more words in common speech. And it's impossible to count the number of words in a specific language. From time to time there are new words implimented into a language. And there isn't one clear definition of a word. Like in my language, polish, there is conjugation of verbs, declension of nouns, adverbs, numbers, etc. They are just different form of one word, but some of the forms can sometimes be used in a different meaning. So, we can count the number of words by their meaning, or just by the words (as sounds). This makes it all impossible to count the number of words.

During a normal day you may use about 1000 words, but also 10 000. Some words are useless in a language, and some are obligatory.

  • Apr 5, 2011
  • | Edited by Sinedd Apr 5, 2011
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  • Apparently most native speakers know about 22,000 words of their own language but only use about 5000 words daily. I read it in a book. - rabbitwho Apr 5, 2011
  • Rebecca, I heard it was only 3000. In any case, it´s a scary notion - JulianChivi Apr 5, 2011
  • I read that one only has to know about 600 to read The New York Times - but what does that prove?. - - ian-hill Apr 5, 2011
  • Most estimates I've read put the English vocabulary of the average American at roughly 20,000 words. Then you get into the problem of active vs. passive, derivatives, etc. - KevinB Apr 5, 2011


Apparently most reliable sources say it is English, and I think it is fair to say that it has a lot more than Spanish, but measuring this is not an easy task. Judging from the size of the dictionary we can't conclude much, because the famous Oxford dictionary is packed with technical terms and even place names, whereas other dictionaries like the RAE one do not include technical terms or place names unless they are commonly used and they see them as significant for some reason. But that does not mean that similar terms do not exist in Spanish; it is quite easy to think of a technical term in Spanish that cannot be found in this dictionary, at least for me. And then, the Oxford dictionary and others include every thing they come across, like a Latin term that one writer has used once for the first time, popular terms that suddenly come up, like Homer's famous "doh!" or ridiculous words like pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, whether they are just temporary fashion or words that are used by 3 people in the world; any term someone hears from a foreigner and someone uses a couple of times is almost instantaneously added to the dictionary as if everyone used it. The RAE would never consider any of those words, even if they saw them, because they like to wait a long time before including a term. English also creates lots of words, and dictionaries include them extremely fast, so you'll find MRSA (not that new, by the way) even in a English pocket dictionary, but not in the RAE, because it is "too technical", and because they don't normally include acronyms either. The term does exist in Spanish, and doctors use it, but it is not in the dictionary. Considering these factors, it is no wonder that English has more words than any other language. I'm sure that if people from another language began to create hundreds of words per day, add all foreign words they see once, plus medical terms, interjections, acronyms, ancient Latin, Greek and Sanskrit terms... they would catch up with English, and even overtake it soon.

Many natives' dictionary vocabulary can be as low as 10,000 words, while the average (depending on the country) varies from 15,000 to 25,000, more or less. Above that it is considered a good vocabulary. Some medium sized dictionaries don't even go over 30,000 words. So English might have a huge vocabulary, but nearly no speaker who knows even half of it.

  • BUt they won't will they? - ian-hill Apr 5, 2011
  • Where I live Spanish may overtake English simply because they use all the Spanish words and all the English words at the same time. :-) - KevinB Apr 5, 2011


Here's a good article on this topic. The bottom line is that English has roughly twice as many words available as Spanish does. The tricky part is getting anyone to agree on which words to count. However you do it, though, English has a lot of words.

  • Apr 5, 2011
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