Andrew asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 decade ago

Does anyone know how many words an "average" literate person can use/recognize?

Does anyone know how many words an average person knows and uses? I have no idea but I figure it must be tens of thousands. Does anyone know or have heard a correct number? A source would be nice if you have one :-)


I put the word average in quotations for a reason, meaning it is a very relative term. If you don't recognize that then you are probably in the "below average" category.

Update 2:

Actually, literacy itself has a universal definition:

United Nations definition - the ability to read and write a simple sentence in any language.

11 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I think most "average" people (high school graduates) may use an average of 3000 words.

    Recognition, maybe about 20,000.

  • RE
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Your definition of literacy would include first graders. But let's think about teens.

    Some studies indicate that the vocabulary of the typical American teen

    of today is less than half the size of the vocabulary of a teenager in the 1950s. It is speculated that the influences of television, computer games, and other entertainment media are largely responsible.

    Fewer people read for pleasure these days, and reading books has always been a great vocabulary-booster. Widespread "pop" entertainment has brought a unity of cultural reference to our society, along with a plenitude of simple catchphrases which make it unnecessary to create original sentences. Rather than saying "I am relatively indifferent to this situation," it is easier (and less taxing on the mind) to say "Whatever."

    Although slang has always been part of human speech, slang which serves as expressive shorthand has become more prevalent, perhaps because the omnipresence of television has homogenized us, creating a near-universal understanding of slang phrases which might have remained regional in times past.

    "Utne Reader (July-August 2000, 'Like Whatever,' pages 28-9.) tells us

    that the typical American teenager of the 50s had a vocabulary of

    25,000 words; the teenager of today 10,000."

    By comparison, it is estimated that typical college graduates have an active vocabulary of 60,000 active words (which they use) and 75,000 passive (which they understand).

  • 1 decade ago

    It really depends on the age, education level, and economic background of the person. If we assume the person is a middle class adult with a high school education, then it's probably safe to say that person knows about 20,000 words and uses about a tenth of that in any given week.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    between 30,000 and 60,000< that's for the average American. And there are over 700,000 words in the English language.

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  • 1 decade ago

    duhhhhhh...sorry couldn't help myself

    what do you mean by literate? i mean, there is no real answer. i depends on where you are in your life, what country you some languages have few and simple word while English is more complicated with new words everyday and so on. but if i had to guess, i would say literate or not, probably no more then 30 percent of all the words in the Webster-Merriam dictionary. if even that much.

  • 1 decade ago

    200 seriously you must be kidding 200 words is like 5 pages of a dictionary retard... must bein the tens of thousands

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Nobody paid much attention to the meaning of 'word', howe to deal with compounds, etc. ...

    New question: what's a 'word'?

    Source(s): .
  • Mandy
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    I think it was 2000 if I read correctly.

  • 1 decade ago

    define average.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    This answers your question in very good detail

    Hope this helps

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