10 Fun Facts about English

Do you love English? According to some websites, about 980 million people worldwide speak English as a first or second language! Wow! That's a lot! English is the second most popular language after Mandarin Chinese. English is also listed as the official language of over 65 countries. The English language is popular all over the world. 

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses



The English language is fascinating. It borrows words from many different languages including Italian, Spanish, Greek, Dutch, Russian, and more. Many spellings do not seem logical, and words are not always pronounced how they are spelled. It is full of crazy inventions, needless and strange words, and strange meanings.

If you are learning English, it may sometimes seem difficult and even annoying. But English can also be interesting! Here are 10 fun facts that you should know about the English language!

Fact 1:
Shakespeare invented over 1,700 common English words!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor. He wrote well-known plays such as Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. He also invented over 1700 of our common English words. He invented new English words, but he also changed how some words were used. He changed nouns into verbs, verbs into adjectives, connected new words together, and added prefixes and suffixes to old words.

Here are 10 English words we can thank Shakespeare for:

addiction noun the state of being addicted
arch-villain noun an extreme villain (enemy)
blood-stained adj. stained with blood
champion noun warrior, fighter; winner
dwindle verb to become less; shrink
green-eyed adj. jealous
moonbeam noun a ray of light from the moon
torture verb causing intense pain
worthless adj. lacking worth; no value
zany noun a clown; a foolish person


Fact 2:
The most common letter in English is E.

An Elephant

According to Oxford Dictionaries, E is the most commonly used letter in the English alphabet. Q is the least common letter. The letter E is 56 times more common than the letter Q.

The most common letter used at the beginning of words is S. There are more English words that begin with S than any other letter. Many of these words begin with clusters such as sh, sp, st, and sc. The letter X is the least common letter to begin a word in English.

Xylophone


Fact 3:
A pangram is a sentence that uses all 26 letters of the English alphabet.

The alphabet
A sentence that contains all 26 letters in the English alphabet is called a pangram. The most common pangram is English is

A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

This sentence is often used to test typewriters and keyboards.

Typewriter

Fact 4:
The word ALPHABET comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet.

The English word alphabet came into Middle English from the Latin word alphabetum. The Latin word alphabetum came from the Greek word alphabetos, which was made from the first to letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta.

Fact 5:
Some words do not have a singular form.

There are some English words that exist only in plural form. These are a few common words that do not have a singular form.

glasses

Glasses
binoculars

Binocu;ars
 pants / jeans

Pants
scissors

Scissors

Fact 6:
The letter combination -ough is pronounced in at least 9 different ways!

  • rough = ruff

  • plough = plow

  • through = throo

  • though = thoh

  • hiccough = hik-up

  • cough = coff

  • thought = thawt

  • thorough = thur-oh

  • slough = slou / sloo


Fact 7:
The # symbol has several names.

The official name for the # symbol is octothorpe. Octothorpe is a made-up word invented in the 1960s when the # symbol was added to telephone keypads. The octothorpe now has several names and uses in English.

Telephone
  • hashtag

    This is a more recent use of the # sign. On Twitter and other forms of social media, the # symbol is used before a word or phrase to identify messages on a specific topic.

    #EnglishIsAwesome  #ReallyLearnEnglish  #FunFacts

  • pound sign

    The # symbol comes from the abbreviation for pound in weight: lb. When writing lb, it was common for scribes to cross the letter across the top like the letter t. Eventually, the # symbol was invented from this writing.

  • number sign

    The phrase number sign was used in British English because pound sign could easily be confused with British currency (pound). The # symbol can be used to identify numbers, such as number 2 (#2). 
To learn more about the # symbol, visit this page: Number Sign.


Fact 8:
English is the language of the skies.

We know that English is spoken by people all over the world, but did you know that English is the language of the skies too? Clear communication between pilots and air traffic controllers is important for safety. In 1951, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommended that English be the standard language for air travel communication.

ICAO published lists of words and phrases that all international pilots and air traffic controllers must know. They even list how these words should be pronounced.

Not all pilots and air traffic controllers speak English. English is the most common language of the skies, but it is not a law that everyone must speak English. In some areas, air traffic controllers will give instructions in their native language followed by English.

If you want to read more about this topic, visit this page: How Pilots Communicate.

Airplane runway


Fact 9:
Only 2 modern English words end in -gry.

There are only 2 modern English words that end in -gry:

angry

hungry

There is a third word in some dictionaries that ends in -gry: anhungry. Anhungry was a synonym for hungry, but it is no longer used in modern English. 


Fact 10:
About 1,000 new words are added to the dictionary each year.

An average of 1,000 new words are added to the dictionary every year and some words and definitions are revised.

Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary is updated 4 times every year: March, June, September, and December. In June of 2017, more than 600 new words, phrases, and senses were added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Here are a few of the changes:

New words:
  • bug chaser (noun): a person who studies and collects bugs

  • chantoosie (noun): a female singer of popular songs 

  • widdly (adjective): showy, over-elaborate (especially when talking about the playing of a guitar)

Merriam Webster updates Webster's Collegiate Dictionary annually. In a recent update, more than a thousand new words were added. Some of these words are from recent advances in science, borrowings from foreign languages, and words from pop culture, sports, and tech.

Here are a few words recently added to the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

  • Seussian (adjective): relating to the works of Dr. Seuss

  • face-palm (verb): to cover one's face with the hand when embarrassed

  • binge-watch (verb): to watch many episodes of a T.V. series at one time

  • FLOTUS (abbreviation or noun): First Lady of the United States
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