There are a lot of words in the English Language (over 170,000 words in the English dictionary alone, which doesn’t take into account things like slang and jargon) so it’s understandable that the average English speaker only knows between 20,000 and 35,000 words! This got us thinking; which words in our language are least commonly known by speakers?

Ghent University have an online Vocabulary test which can be used to estimate what percentage of the English language a speaker might know. To determine which words are least known by native English speakers, the Center for Reading Research analysed the first 480,000 results and found that fewer than 3% of participants knew the following 20 words:

  • genipap(n., a tropical, evergreen tree with edible fruit used in drinks)
  • futhorc(n., the Old English, runic alphabet)
  • witenagemot(n., an Anglo-Saxon political council)
  • gossypol(n., a toxic pigment that inhibits sperm production)
  • chaulmoogra(n., an Asian tree, with seed-oil that treats leprosy)
  • brummagem(adj., cheap and showy)
  • alsike(n., a clover native to Europe)
  • chersonese(n., a peninsula)
  • cacomistle(n., a carnivorous, raccoon-like animal)
  • yogh(n., Middle English letter, used to represent the “y” sound)
  • smaragd(adj., relating to emeralds)
  • duvetyn(adj., a soft fabric made of wool, cotton, rayon, or silk)
  • pyknic(adj., short, stocky)
  • fylfot(n., a swastika)
  • yataghan(n., double-curved Turkish sword)
  • dasyure(n., any small, carnivorous marsupial)
  • simoom(n., strong, hot wind in the Sahara and Arabian deserts)
  • stibnite(n., a mineral; also the chief source of antimony)
  • kalian(n., a tobacco pipe where smoke cools by passing through water)
  • didapper(n., a type of small bird)

 Do you recognise any of these words? Let us know!

You can also take the Ghent University vocabulary test for yourself here! 

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