This is both frustrating and fun. Type in English words you think might be among the 100 most common, and if you’re right, the world will appear in its box. Note that if you start typing in a three-letter word that happens to start with a two-letter word, the latter will appear instead, but you can then go back and start typing again and it will accept the longer word (if, of course, it’s on the list). Warning: I’m pretty sure the list is flawed, because some of the words I (and people on the MetaFilter thread where I found it) tried have to be more common than a few of the ones they include. My score: 47. One person at MeFi claims to have gotten 74; I’m not sure I believe him. You have five minutes, and it’s harder than you think.


  1. I got 53, which is kinda weak since I used to work with stop word lists all the time–words you wouldn’t normally want your search engine keeping track of, for example, like “the”.
    You are right that some of those words can’t possibly be in the top 100. (“water”?)
    They must have culled the list themselves from some small, slightly skewed sample.
    Wikipedia has a list taken from billion-word-plus Oxford English Corpus.. following the link before taking the quiz is cheating!

  2. michael farris says

    I got 53.
    FWIW, I wouldn’t count a and an as separate words and would probably count different forms of the same verb as the same (pronouns as well). I’d probably leave will and would as separate words though.

  3. That was fun! I got 61. Kicking myself over a few very easy ones.

  4. Crown, A. J. says

    Well, I only got 28, but I messed up a little in the middle. I wasn’t looking at the screen, and then suddenly I saw that all the words I was typing had stayed piled up in the box. So I did the test again. The second time I got 27 (that included water, which I had read about). How come very isn’t on it? A depressing ten minutes, but at least nothing bad is going to happen, like I’m going to have to stop practising medicine until I get 53 like everyone else– not that I have been, I hasten to add.

  5. rootlesscosmo says

    I lost interest when it didn’t recognize “am” and “can’t.”

  6. komfo,amonan says

    I think I agree with Mr Farris. And I’m trying to suss out the reasoning over at Oxon whereby is is the same word as be, while him is a different word from he. IANALexicographer. Anyone?
    Also for some reason I find it satisfying that one word in the top 100 is of Etruscan origin.
    I got 46.

  7. “IANALexicographer.” I don’t care what sort of exicographer you are.

  8. Trey: “I got 53, which is kinda weak”
    As someone who got 31, I feel your pain.
    I really don’t think that people who work with words in a professional capacity should attempt this quiz because they’re on a hiding to nothing if they do.

  9. So very true!

  10. My score was 47 as well. It would have been worse but I’ve seen various lists of the most common English words before, which allowed me at least a few I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I can just believe 74, barely.
    I’m curious though, what’s the Etruscan-originated word?

  11. I got a 52. I don’t know about the frequencies of some of these words, though. Maybe we should try putting them into the Washington University neighborhood database and getting their frequencies?

  12. komfo,amonan says

    @dearieme: WIN.
    @Dee: Hint: a key ingredient in Soylent Green.

  13. 37. Once I was done with prepositions, pronouns and some basic verbs, total blank. So much so, that I didn’t even get ‘have’. I’ll go hide in a corner now.

  14. Oh, Soylent Green is . . . people! I wouldn’t have known that just a couple of months ago, but my American cultural knowledge is on the increase of late. My etymological dictionary takes it back only so far as the Latin “populus,” and a few other sources hint at the possibility that it’s original root is Etruscan . . . but maddingly to me, they never explain how they’ve come to suspect such a thing.

  15. Dammit, the timer didn’t work for me. I’m on a new computer, so it could be some scripting feature that is not properly configured yet. But I got 63 in about seven minutes, I suppose.

  16. I got 52.
    Sour grapes aside, I think the design is flawed: I didn’t get “is”, though I remember typing it in very early. It turned into “I”, the box cleared, and I ended up with an “s”, which threw me off… and I forgot to type “is” again. A system where you type and hit enter would be more representative of “words you can think of” rather than “words you happen to type in [while possibly thinking of something quite different]”.

  17. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Next you’ll be complaining they don’t let you enter words in katakana.

  18. Yeah, I’m saving that one for a blog post.
    I guess I’m mainly just annoyed at the site for proving to me that I’m incapable of remembering the word “is” for more than 2 seconds at a time.

  19. Crown, A. J. says

    …I don’t want to boast, but with 26 and 27 I’ve still got the lowest score, the only two in the twenties, in fact…

  20. I got 56. But this test is strange. How can ‘get’ not be there?

  21. 46. There were a few I missed that I was sure I typed in, but in any case, that was fun.

  22. how does the list compare with ?

  23. komfo,amonan says

    Perhaps I was thinking of ‘person’, which seems to have a specific Etruscan word thought to be its source. The pre-Latin origins of ‘people’ seem to be lost. I’m guessing the Etruscan guess is due to the absence of contemporary IE cognates … ?

  24. Perhaps I was thinking of ‘person’, which seems to have a specific Etruscan word thought to be its source.
    Yes, that is conjectured: against a common wishful etymology per sona that supposes a mask through which the actor sounds forth. A lovely thought. Would that it were so!

  25. Yes, so many folk etymologies are beautiful things!

  26. 45 here

  27. John Emerson says

    Most words are ultimately Etruscan.

  28. Well, I got 72 (honestly) but that’s only because I teach a course that features a discussion of this very thing. I missed most of their verbs, though.

  29. Most words are ultimately Etruscan.
    And by “Etruscan,” I presume you mean Dravidian.

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