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10 Fun facts about the English language

Did you know that English is the most widely spoken language in the world? It's the first language for almost 372.9 million people, and the total number of English speakers around the world is around 1.4 billion! This is only one of the most astonishing fun facts about the English language. It is a language that keeps on changing and surprising us. Do you want to learn more? Come join us at English Path as we dive deep into the fascinating history of this global language and discover many more English facts. 

Origins of the English language

English is derived from West Germanic language, which originated from Old Frisian, Old English, and Old Saxon. It came to Britain when Anglo-Saxon migrants arrived in the 5th to 7th centuries AD. That was 1500 years ago! Over the years, the English language has been influenced by different cultures and languages, such as Latin, French, Dutch, and Afrikaans. Even today, English is still changing and evolving. It is the dominant language in the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many smaller former British colonies. 

Discover interesting English facts!

Now that we have discovered the origins of the English language, let's explore some fun facts about this pretty unique language that you might not know and will surprise you. So, let's explore some interesting English facts together! 

1. Over 30% of English words are derived from other languages 

The origins of over 30% of words in the English language can be traced to French, Latin, Sanskrit, Japanese, Spanish and many more languages! For example: 

  • Cheer (v.) from chiere [Old French] 
  • Gravity (n.) from gravitas [Latin] 
  • Avatar (n.) from avatarana [Sanskrit] 
  • Tycoon (n.) from taikun [Japanese] 
  • Albatross (n.) from alcatraz [Spanish] 

2. Each letter in the English language is unique 

Did you know that the English alphabet is derived from the Latin script alphabet, which was first used by ancient Romans? The English alphabet has 26 letters, both uppercase and lowercase forms. Old English was first written down with the Latin alphabet in the 7th century. Over time, some letters were added or removed, and by the 16th century, the current set of 26 letters had mostly settled: 

A a • B b • C c • D d • E e • F f • G g • H h • I i • J j • K k • L l • M m • N n • O o • P p • Q q • R r • S s • T t • U u • V v • W w • X x • Y y • Z z 

3. Did you know that there are words in the English language that mean nothing? 

The words that are misspelt in the dictionary are called “ghost words” because they have no meaning. This happened because of printing errors. For example, a word called “dord” stayed in the dictionary for eight years in the mid-20th century until it was removed in the next edition. 

4. The longest word in the English language has 189,819 letters! 

The longest word in the English language is made up of 189,819 letters! It is the chemical name for the largest known protein, titin, and is spelt like this: methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylalanyl...isoleucine. However, the longest word published in most dictionaries is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. This 45-letter word is a type of lung disease caused by inhaling silica particles, particularly from a volcano. 

5. More than 800 words are added to the English dictionary every year 

Did you know that a new word is created every 98 minutes? That means that more than 800 to 1,000 words are added to English dictionaries every year. This has been happening more for the last couple of years because the internet and technology has led to new words being created. Merriam-Webster even added 690 new words to its dictionary in September 2023. Some of the new words added to dictionaries around the world in 2023 were: 

  • Rizz (noun), slang: Charm or romantic appeal. 
  • Simp (verb), informal: Devotion or longing for something or someone. 
  • Goated (adjective), slang: considered "greatest of all time."  
  • Girlboss (noun) informal: An ambitious and successful woman (especially a businesswoman or entrepreneur). 
  • Street date (noun), formal: the date a product is publicly released for sale. 

6. Shakespeare introduced more than 1700 words to the English language 

William Shakespeare was a celebrated English playwright, poet, and actor during the late 16th and early 17th century. He created many new words and expressions for his plays and poems, of which 1,700 were added to the English language and are still used today! Some of the most popular words he created are: 

  • Swagger (A Midsummer Night’s Dream): To walk confidently or proudly. 
  • Fashionable (Troilus and Cressida): A characteristic or style during a period. 
  • Bedroom (A Midsummer Night's Dream): A room for sleeping. 
  • Gossip (The Comedy of Errors): Informal conversation about others. 
  • Manager (Love's Labour's Lost): The person in charge or in control of things. 

7. English is the most commonly used language on the internet 

English is often referred to as the lingua franca of the internet. This means that people from different countries who speak different languages use English to communicate with each other online. In fact, about 80% of the information stored electronically around the world is in English. It is also the common language used in many professions, such as science, medicine, and air traffic control. Additionally, the computing language is based on English vocabulary. 

8. ‘E’ is the most common letter in the English language 

Did you know that the letter “e” in the English language is the most commonly used letter? It appears in approximately 11% of all words in the English language, which is about 6,000 more words than the runner-up letter, “A”. You probably use this letter a lot without even realizing it! It is the letter which is usually stuck on a keyboard and is also the second most popular key after the space bar. This letter appears in many common words like “time” and “be”, as well as in pronouns like “he”, “she”, “me”, and “we”, and tens of thousands of words that end in “-ed” and “-es”. 

9. The word ‘run’ in English can be used in over 600 different ways 

Did you know that the word 'run' in English has over 600 different uses? It's one of the most versatile words in the language. You can use it to talk about so many things, such as running a race, running a business, running to the shop, if the fridge is running, or even saying that apps run on your smartphone. This word has evolved over time, and the reason why it has so many uses is because of the rise in technology. There are many other words like 'set' and 'go' that have lots of uses too. Can you think of any without looking them up? 

10. An average person knows about 20,000-35,000 English words 

Although it is difficult to count the number of words in the English language, it’s safe to say that it’s somewhere between 1 and 2 million or maybe even more. Even though there are so many words available, on average, a person knows only about 20,000 to 35,000 English words. A pretty interesting English fact, right? You might be surprised to learn that adult native English speakers learn around 1 new word each day until middle age. Unfortunately, that's when the learning stops. 

Learn more fun facts about the English language with English Path

Do you want to discover more fun facts about the English language and become a master of the global language? Join English Path for a fun learning experience. With us, you don't just learn a new language in a classroom, you also have amazing opportunities to practise your skills in real-life situations while exploring different cities. Check out our English courses for learners of all ages and backgrounds to improve your English language skills! 

Frequently asked questions about the English language

Q1. What are five fun facts about the English language?

A1. Five fun facts about the English language are: 

  1. The shortest grammatically correct sentence in English is 'Go'.  
  2. Butterfly was originally called 'flutterby'.  
  3. English is the official language of over 60 countries.  
  4. The Oxford English Dictionary added the word 'lol' in 2011.  
  5. The very first English language dictionary was written in 1755. 

Want to learn more interesting English facts? Join English Path! 

Q2. What is special about English?

A2. English is a very important language because it is used all over the world as a way for people who speak different languages to communicate with each other. Although it is not the language that most people speak, it is the official language of 67 countries and is spoken by about 1.4 billion people as their first language. Additionally, it is also the most popular second language in the world. 

Q3. What's the best way to learn fun facts about the English language?

A3. You can learn fun facts about the English language by reading books, magazines, newspapers or even blogs online. Listening to podcasts and music can also help. Plus, when you speak English, you'll discover many interesting things, such as words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. The more you use the language, the more surprising and interesting things you'll discover. 

Q4. What is the best way to spend your holiday?

A4. One of the best ways to spend your holidays is to be productive and have new experiences. Enjoy your holiday by going on adventures. You can explore new cities, add a new skill to your CV or learn English with EP. We offer various language courses in major locations around the world, like London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Toronto, Dubai, Dublin, Malta and Paris – we're opening on 1st August! With us, you have the amazing opportunity to learn a new language and explore these famous cities! 

Q5. How can I learn English?

A5. Join English Path to improve your English skills and achieve your goals. Our English courses are designed to help you develop your grammar, vocabulary, and conversational skills. Our team of experienced and qualified teachers uses a combination of classroom learning and practical practice sessions outside the class to help you improve your speaking skills in real-life situations. You can enhance your speaking skills and build your confidence in using English. Explore our English courses to take your skills to the next level.