English has more words (615 000!) than any other language

There are more English words – about 615 000 – than in any other language.

But why?

English is a Germanic language that borrows from around the world.

It is still expanding and rapidly changing.

More than 70% of English words have their origins in Latin and Ancient Greek.

John Maytham interviewed Gail Symington.

Symington is a Senior Lecturer (Classical Studies, School of Languages and Literatures) at the University of Cape Town.

Listen to the interview in the audio below (and/or scroll down for quotes from it).

French and Spanish have about 100 000 words. German has 135 000.

Gail Symington

Other languages are more linguistically proud or insular.

Gail Symington

A native English speaker’s vocabulary consists of about 20 000 words, but you could make do with about 1000.

Gail Symington

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