Do you know the history and origin of the English language? Would you be surprised to learn about the unique characteristics of English compared to other languages? English has a fascinating history and there are many amazing facts about english.
English has roots in several languages, including Latin, Anglo-Saxon, and French. It is estimated that approximately 1 billion people speak English as their first language.
In this post, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most interesting facts about English that you may not have known before!
Read after: If you like this post, you’ll love our facts about language post too.
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29 Amazing Facts about English
English is often referred to as the “lingua franca” or bridge language due to its widespread use across many countries, cultures, and industries worldwide. It allows speakers from different backgrounds to communicate more easily than with any other language.
The widespread adoption of English has made it one of the most influential languages in history and a powerful tool for global communication. Its diverse vocabulary and creative possibilities offer an unrivaled platform for expressing oneself effectively.
From the unique words and dialects to its long history of borrowing from other languages, English is a true force to be reckoned with. Whether you’re just starting out learning English or have been speaking it all your life, there’s always something new to discover.
Do you think you know everything there is to know about the English language? Think again! Here are 29 fun facts about English that you probably didn’t know.
1. The English Language Actually Originated in North West Germany And The Netherlands
Many of the words used in English are derived from Germanic languages. The most significant of these is Old English (Anglo-Saxon), which was spoken by the Anglo-Saxons who settled in England around 500 AD.
This language formed the basis for modern English but has since been heavily influenced by French and Latin due to later invasions and conquests. This makes it a unique mix of different cultures and languages that still retains its basic roots of being a Germanic language.
2. English is The Third-Most Spoken Native Language in The World
There are around 400 million native English speakers in the world. This makes it the third most spoken language, behind Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. The language we know today is a result of many different cultures merging together over time. This gives English its unique quality and makes it one of the most diverse languages in the world.
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3. There Are Approximately 339 Million Native Speakers of English
This figure doesn’t include those who speak the language as a second language. Native English speakers are found in countries worldwide, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. And, of course, the United Kingdom.
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4. Some Common Words That Have Changed Meaning Over Time
For example, in the 16th century, the word ‘awful’ actually meant full of awe and wonder. Today it has taken on a much more negative meaning. Other words that have changed include ‘terrible’, which used to mean inspiring terror, and ‘nice’, which meant foolish.
The word “girl” now means a young female child, but many years ago, the word was used to refer to any young person, regardless of gender. It was not until the late 14th century that it began to mean a female child solely.
Read more facts about history.
5. Many Words Have Been Borrowed Into English From Other Languages Over The Centuries
English has been influenced by a variety of cultures throughout its history, from Latin to Greek to Chinese and beyond. As such, the English language has borrowed words from languages all around the world.
For example, French has contributed words such as ‘restaurant’, ‘petite,’ and ‘cuisine’. Latin has given us words like ‘hospitable’, ‘model,’ and ‘magnificent’, while Japanese has provided us with terms like ‘typhoon’ and ‘tsunami.’
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6. There Are Thought to be Around 200 Different Dialects or Varieties of English Currently Spoken Around The World
These dialects are the result of different cultures merging together. In the United States, for example, there is a distinctive Southern drawl and an East Coast twang.
Elsewhere in the world, English speakers can be found speaking with accents from South Africa or Australia. Slang and colloquialisms also vary from region to region.
Each dialect has its own vocabulary and pronunciation, so it is interesting to see how the language has evolved in different countries. Examples include Cockney in London and Cajun English in Louisiana. In some cases, these local dialects are so divergent that they can barely be understood by other native English speakers.
7. English Has Some Unusual Rules About Plurals and Possessives
English has some strange rules when it comes to plurals and possessives. For example, when forming the plural of a word ending in “y” (such as family), you change the “y” to an “i” before adding the “es” (e.g., families). Similarly, when creating a possessive form with a name ending in “s” (such as James), you need to use both an apostrophe and an “s” (e.g., James’s).
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8. The Longest English Word That Contains 45 Letters
That word is Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, which refers to a type of lung disease caused by inhaling volcanic ash. It’s an incredibly rare condition and one that most people thankfully never have to worry about.
But what about supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? This is a nonsense phrase made popular in the 1964 Mary Poppins film, which most people believe to be an actual word. However, it isn’t actually a real English word and has been used as part of a tongue-twisting game throughout history.
9. All Airlines Use English as Their Communication Language
English is the official language of air traffic control, making it essential for pilots and aircrew to have a comprehensive understanding of English. This ensures that everyone in an aircraft understands instructions from air traffic controllers on the ground, as well as other necessary information during flight.
Read more facts about pilots.
In fact, English has become the primary language for many businesses across the world due to its widespread use and acceptance globally. This makes it easier for multinational companies to conduct business operations as everyone understands a common language. Many businesses also require employees to have at least basic knowledge of English, making it an incredibly important skill in today’s job market.
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10. English Is Also The Universal Language Of Science
Due to its widespread use and acceptance around the world, English has become the universal language of science. Many scientific papers are written in English, allowing researchers from all over the world to easily access this information and collaborate on research projects. This helps ensure that new discoveries are shared quickly and accurately with people everywhere.
11. “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog” is a Pangram
A pangram is a sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is one of the most famous English pangrams and can be used to test font quality or keyboard layouts. It was first used by Western Union in 1933 for testing telex machines.
Other Pangrams that you might see include “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs” and “How quickly daft jumping zebras vex.” These can be used to showcase the beauty of the English language.
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12. The English Language Has “Ghost Words”
Ghost words are words that have been included in English dictionaries but that no one actually uses. They’re often made up of two separate words merged together or a word taken from another language that never caught on in English. Examples include “emote” (a combination of emotions and notes) and “elenchus” (an ancient Greek word meaning refutation).
13. New Words Get Added More Often Than You’d Think
Pretty much every two hours, the dictionary receives a new word. This is done to update the English language and accurately reflect modern usage. New words can be created in multiple ways, such as combining existing words (like brunch) or borrowing from other languages (such as sushi from Japanese).
According to research, the most used word in English is ‘good’. It is estimated that it appears almost twice as much as the second most popular word, which is ‘time’. Other commonly used words include ‘people’, ‘year,’ and ‘day.’
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14. English Has a Lot of Crutch Words
Crutch words, or filler words as they are sometimes referred to, are commonly used in English speech and writing. These include words such as “like”, “um”, and “you know,” which are often used to add pauses when speaking or fill in gaps in conversations.
These words often aren’t considered ‘real’ words, as they don’t usually have an accurate meaning. However, they can be used to emphasize a point or add emphasis to an idea being expressed.
15. Ambigrams Are Upside-Down Words in English
Ambigrams are words that can be read the same way, upside-down and right side up. Examples of ambigrams include “golf”, “noon”, and “reviver”. Ambigrams can be created using various methods, such as changing the font or rearranging letters to create a mirrored effect.
Languages that also have ambigrams include Chinese, Spanish, and Russian.
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16. English Is Rich in Idioms and Slang
English is full of interesting idioms and slang phrases that can be difficult to understand for non-native speakers. Idioms are words or phrases with a figurative meaning that cannot be understood from their literal definition; an example is “raining cats and dogs” (meaning it is raining very heavily). Slang is informal language used by certain groups of people; an example is “cool beans” (meaning something is good).
17. English Does Not Dominate in Some Countries
Despite being one of the most widely spoken languages, English is not the official language in many countries. Places such as China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia are known for their native languages, with fewer English speakers.
Additionally, there are some parts of Africa and South America where a few people may understand basic English, but it is rarely used as a primary language. While English remains dominant on the world stage, speaking other languages can be invaluable when trying to connect with people from different cultures.
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18. English Has Some of The Most Contronyms
Contronyms are words that have two opposite meanings, such as “overlook,” which can mean either to watch or to ignore. English has some of the most contronyms of any language, with examples including “cleave” (to stick together or separate), “sanction” (to punish or approve), and “dust” (to remove dust or add dust).
Other languages, such as French and German, have far fewer contronyms. Whether this makes English easier or more confusing to learn is a matter of opinion.
19. More Than 80% of Information Stored on Computers & Online is in English
English is the language of technology, and it’s estimated that more than 80% of information stored on computers and online is in English. This includes emails, websites, software programs and other items related to modern digital life. You don’t need to be fluent in English to use computers, but having a basic knowledge of the language can help you get the most out of your digital experience.
Read more facts about technology.
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20. The English Dictionary Dates Back to 1755
The first edition of what is now known as the Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1755 and contained approximately 3000 words. Since then, it has grown to over 300,000 words and continues to expand to encompass new terms that are added over time.
Over time, the dictionary was revised, and some words were taken out or replaced with more modern alternatives. This further emphasizes the fluid nature of language and how English has changed over time.
21. English Owes Many Words to Shakespeare
English owes many words to the playwright and poet William Shakespeare, whose work has had a lasting influence on modern language. Many phrases he coined are still in common use today, including “in a pickle,” “as good as gold,” and “the milk of human kindness.”
He introduced several new words into the language, demonstrating his mastery and creativity with English. Millions of people worldwide still study his works and serve as an example of how influential one person can be.
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22. English Is A Creative Language
English is a creative language that allows for endless possibilities when it comes to expressing oneself. There are many different ways to say something, and new words can be created through clever combinations of existing ones. This means there is plenty of room for learning new words by reading books and watching movies.
It also means that one can express complex ideas using relatively few words compared to some other languages. With all these unique features, it’s no wonder why English is considered the world’s most popular language.
23. Approximately 75% of All Books Published Throughout The World Are Written in English
There is no doubt that English has become the de facto language of communication. This is evidenced by the fact that approximately 75% of all books published throughout the world are written in English. This includes both fiction books and non-fiction titles, making English one of the most important languages for literary production.
The dominance of English in publishing has had a large influence on culture and contributed to its widespread use as a global language.
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24. English is Believed to Have One of The Widest Vocabularies of Any Language in The World
This is largely due to its versatility, as new words can be created by combining existing ones or borrowing from other languages. Even though English has a wide variety of synonyms, some words are so complex that they cannot be translated into any other language.
English speakers may also use several different words for the same concept depending on their dialect or region, demonstrating the diversity and flexibility of this popular language.
25. There Are More Non-Native English Speakers Than Native Speakers in The World
Many people learn English in order to communicate with people from different cultures and to take advantage of the many opportunities available in English-speaking countries. English has become an essential language for international business, travel, and education, allowing individuals to connect with people worldwide.
Additionally, non-native speakers can access millions of books, movies, and other forms of media written or produced in English. Learning English can provide a valuable career boost and open up a world of possibilities.
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26. The Most Common Letter Used in The English Alphabet is ‘E’
There are 26 letters in the alphabet, but some letters are used more frequently than others. The most commonly used letter in the English alphabet is ‘e’ – it accounts for around 12% of all letters used in written English. ‘E’ is followed closely by ‘t’, which makes up 9%.
These two letters alone make up almost a quarter of all words in the language, making them essential to learning and using English. Other common letters include ‘a’, ‘o’, and ‘r’. Wondering which letters are used the least? Unsurprisingly, it’s ‘x’ and ‘q’, which only appear in a very small number of words.
27. English has Three Genders
These are masculine, feminine, and neuter. These are used to describe nouns in a sentence and are used to indicate the gender of the speaker or object that is being referred to. For example, the word “she” would be feminine (as it refers to a female), while the word “him” would be masculine (as it refers to a male).
It can also be used to show respect or politeness when speaking with individuals of different genders and provide an indication of who owns something.
By understanding these rules and conventions, English speakers can communicate more effectively with people worldwide.
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28. You Need to Know ±4000 Words to Become a Practiced English Speaker
English has a wide range of words and can be quite daunting for beginners. But, with enough practice and dedication, anyone can become proficient in English.
Experts suggest that you need to know around 4000 words in order to become a practiced English speaker. This would be for those learning the language to work, travel, or simply for daily conversations.
29. English is One of The Most Challenging Languages to Learn
English is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn due to its complex grammar rules and wide range of vocabulary. It can take many years for someone to become an expert English speaker, as some words may never be fully understood or mastered.
There are quite a few schools and classes dedicated to teaching English as a second language, but it’s important to remember that the best way to learn is through practice.
Because of its widespread use, learning English can open up many doors for individuals looking for career opportunities or wanting to travel abroad. It’s considered an essential language in business and is often required for many job positions.
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Sunday 2nd of April 2023
I believe the German language also has three genders, Der Die, Daß ?
Wednesday 5th of April 2023
Thank you - I have updated the article!
Sunday 2nd of April 2023
German has 3 genders, of course, although they do not have the 'personal' quality as does English, for the most part.
Good reading. Thank you!
Wednesday 5th of April 2023
Thanks Mac! I have updated the article.
Sunday 2nd of April 2023
What about German and Russian? Don’t they also have three genders?
Wednesday 5th of April 2023
Thanks Clarke - I have updated the article.
Saturday 1st of April 2023
Sorry, Serbian language has three genders also, so English in not the only one
Wednesday 5th of April 2023
Thanks Michael - I have updated the article.
Saturday 1st of April 2023
Samuel Johnson wrote the first dictionary in 1755. What became the OED used his definitions to start theirs.