A Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English

A Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English is an invaluable tool for all learners of American English, providing a list of the 5,000 most frequently used words in the language.

The dictionary is based on data from a 385-million-word corpus—evenly balanced between spoken English (unscripted conversation from radio and TV shows), fiction (books, short stories, movie scripts), more than 100 popular magazines, ten newspapers, and 100 academic journals—for a total of nearly 150,000 texts.

All entries in the rank frequency list feature the top 20-30 collocates (nearby words) for that word, which provide valuable insight into the meaning and usage. Alphabetical and part of speech indexes are provided for ease of use. The dictionary also contains 31 thematically organized and frequency-ranked lists of words on a variety of topics, such as family, sports, and food. New words in the language, differences between American and British English, and grammar topics such as the most frequent phrasal verbs are also covered.

A Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English is an engaging and efficient resource enabling students of all levels to get the most out of their study of vocabulary. It is also a rich resource for language teaching, research, curriculum design, and materials development.

Mark Davies is Professor and Dee Gardner is Associate Professor, both at the Department of Linguistics and English Language, Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah.

Routledge Frequency Dictionaries

General Editors

Paul Rayson, Lancaster University, UK Mark Davies, Brigham Young University, USA

Editorial Board

Michael Barlow, University of Auckland, New Zealand Geoffrey Leech, Lancaster University, UK Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, University of Lodz, Poland Josef Schmied, Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany Andrew Wilson, Lancaster University, UK

Adam Kilgarriff, Lexicography MasterClass Ltd and University of Sussex, UK Hongying Tao, University of California at Los Angeles Chris Tribble, King's College London, UK

Other books in the series

A Frequency Dictionary of Arabic (forthcoming) A Frequency Dictionary of Chinese A Frequency Dictionary of French A Frequency Dictionary of German A Frequency Dictionary of Portuguese A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish

A Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English


Word sketches, collocates, and thematic lists Mark Davies and Dee Gardner


Taylor & Francis Group LONDON AND NEW YORK

First edition published 2010 by Routledge

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon Oxon 0X14 4RN

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge

711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2010 Mark Davies and Dee Gardner

Typeset in Parisine by Graphicraft Limited, Hong Kong

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Davies, Mark, 1963 Apr. 22 A frequency dictionary of contemporary American English : word sketches, collocates, and thematic lists / Mark Davies, Dee Gardner.—1st ed.

p. cm.—(Routledge frequency dictionaries) Includes bibliographical references and index

English language—Word frequency—Dictionaries. I. Gardner, Dee. II. Title. PE1691.D35 2010 423'.1— dc22


ISBN10: 0-415-49046-2 (hbk) ISBN10: 0-415-49063-4 (pbk) ISBN10: 0-203-88088-9 (ebk)

ISBN 13: 978-0-415-49064-1 (hbk) ISBN 13: 978-0-415-49063-4 (pbk) ISBN 13: 978-0-203-88088-3 (ebk)


Thematic vocabulary list | vi Series preface | vii Acknowledgments | ix Abbreviations | x Introduction |1 Frequency index |9 Alphabetical index |282 Part of speech index |317

Thematic vocabulary lists

Animals |9

Body |15

Clothing |22

Colors |29

Emotions |36

Family |43

Foods |50

Materials |57

Nationalities |65

Professions |71

Sports and recreation |78

Time |85

Transportation |92

Weather |99

Opposites |106

The vocabulary of spoken English |113

The vocabulary of fiction texts |120

The vocabulary of popular magazines |127

The vocabulary of newspapers |136

The vocabulary of academic journals |143

New words in American English |150

American vs. British English |157

Frequency of synonyms |164

Comparing words |170

Irregular plurals |178

Variation in past tense forms |186

Creating nouns |194

Creating adjectives |202

Collective nouns |210

Phrasal verbs |218

Word length (Zipf's Law) |225

Series preface

Frequency information has a central role to play in learning a language. Nation (1990) showed that the 4,000-5,000 most frequent words account for up to 95 percent of a written text and the 1,000 most frequent words account for 85 percent of speech. Although Nation's results were only for English, they do provide clear evidence that, when employing frequency as a general guide for vocabulary learning, it is possible to acquire a lexicon which will serve a learner well most of the time. There are two caveats to bear in mind here. First, counting words is not as straightforward as it might seem. Gardner (2007) highlights the problems that multiple word meanings, the presence of multiword items, and grouping words into families or lemmas, have on counting and analysing words. Second, frequency data contained in frequency dictionaries should never act as the only information source to guide a learner. Frequency information is nonetheless a very good starting point, and one which may produce rapid benefits. It therefore seems rational to prioritize learning the words that you are likely to hear and read most often. That is the philosophy behind this series of dictionaries.

Lists of words and their frequencies have long been available for teachers and learners of language. For example, Thorndike (1921, 1932) and Thorndike and Lorge (1944) produced word frequency books with counts of word occurrences in texts used in the education of American children. Michael West's General Service List of English Words (1953) was primarily aimed at foreign learners of English. More recently, with the aid of efficient computer software and very large bodies of language data (called corpora), researchers have been able to provide more sophisticated frequency counts from both written text and transcribed speech. One important feature of the resulting frequencies presented in this series is that they are derived from recently collected language data. The earlier lists for English included samples from, for example, Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, thus they could no longer represent present-day language in any sense.

Frequency data derived from a large representative corpus of a language brings students closer to language as it is used in real life as opposed to textbook language (which often distorts the frequencies of features in a language, see Ljung, 1990). The information in these dictionaries is presented in a number of formats to allow users to access the data in different ways. So, for example, if you would prefer not to simply dr ...

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