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It's official: we're ruled by time

Time is the most popular common noun in English

We like to be punctual, we expect our trains to run to schedule, and many of us spend our working day watching the clock. Now the new revised eleventh edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary can officially confirm that we are indeed ruled by time .

Concise OED

Drawing on evidence from the Oxford English Corpus, the word time comes top in the list of commonest nouns in the English language, with year (3rd), day (5th) and week (17th) not far behind.

All work and no play...

And we seem to be spending an increasing amount of our time at work, which appears at number 16 in the list, while play and rest do not even make it into the top 100. Contrary to popular belief, though, money doesn't quite make the world go round as it features at a lowly 65, but this is perhaps explained by the fact that we have so many other words for money. But we are still ruled by problems (24), it appears, with no solutions in sight.

...and it's still a man's world out there

Although person is ranked at number 2, it's still very much a man's world with man featuring at number 7 in the list. Child then appears next at number 12, with woman only at number 14. The Prime Minister, will have even more reason to be pleased, with the word government making a strong showing in the list at 20.

Others, however, will note with some concern that we talk far more about war (49) than peace, which does not appear in the top 100 at all...

The list of top 25 nouns:

  1. time
  2. person
  3. year
  4. way
  5. day
  6. thing
  7. man
  8. world
  9. life
  10. hand
  11. part
  12. child
  13. eye
  14. woman
  15. place
  16. work
  17. week
  18. case
  19. point
  20. government
  21. company
  22. number
  23. group
  24. problem
  25. fact

The list of commonest nouns in the English language is just one of the fascinating facts contained in the brand-new English Uncovered supplement of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary :

  • How do we keep track of the language?
  • How many words are there in English?
  • What is the commonest word?
  • Where do new words come from?
  • How is English spelling changing?

Continuing to celebrate the new:

Words in the world of work and play...

New business and political terms feature strongly in the new revised edition of the dictionary, reflecting the ever-increasing time that we spend in the workplace.

So, how do we deal with the elephant in the room and the pig in the python...?

They're likely to figure large in the business-speak of plugged-in executives, together with the elevator pitch (a short sales pitch, intended to impress a senior manager during a ride in an elevator). So if we are spending so much time in the office why not stay ahead of the curve by getting the latest dictionary rather than settling for a helicopter view of the English language?

Keylogging or moblogging?

It's a sign of the times that words describing illegal activities such as keylogging, identity theft, shoulder-surfing are now included in the dictionary. But on the lighter side, the list of leisure pursuits now covers moblogging, leaf peeping, going radge while listening to crunk and, of course, watching the beautiful game.

And for those celebutantes among you who are looking to get in shape for that all-important civil partnership ceremony there's now the opportunity to keep your bippy (or bahookie ­ whichever you prefer) aerobicized!

Are you speaking my language?

How up-to-date is your company's business-speak? Which of these words will feature in your next meeting? Why not play our `business buzzword bingo' game, choosing a selection from the words below. Players check off these words as they come up in the meeting, and the first to fill in a `line' of words is the winner.

  • Ahead of the curve
  • Blame game
  • Buy-in
  • Cover all the bases
  • Customer-facing
  • Deal-breaker
  • Elevator pitch
  • Helicopter view
  • Knowledge economy
  • Metrics
  • Nuclear option
  • Pig in the python
  • Plugged
  • in Productize Pushback
  • Upskill Value
  • proposition Vulture
  • fund

Oxford dictionaries and thesauruses are compiled using the Oxford English Corpus ­ a massive text collection of over one billion words of real 21st-century English ­ to give us the fullest, most accurate picture of the English language today. Analysing the language using the Corpus we can see the behaviour of words in context and identify new words and senses that are emerging.


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