I Know What They Mean, But Don’t Ask Me To Spell ‘Em

Here’s a vocabulary test that I took.  It told me that…

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√  To me, this seems like a heck of a lot of words for one person to know.  The information about the test said that: “Most native English adult speakers who have taken the test fall in the range 20,000–35,000 words.”  So I’m well within the bounds of normal.

√  On this test there were words that I’ve never seen before.  This made me happy.  I enjoy the idea that even at my advanced age there are new words to learn.  Once a geek, always a geek.

√  I was never a good speller and this test brought home that fact to me.  I knew the words when I saw them but realized that without my spellchecker this blog would be filled with more little monosyllabic words than big polysyllabic words.

19 thoughts on “I Know What They Mean, But Don’t Ask Me To Spell ‘Em

  1. 35,000

    was my score on the vocab test. Wow…those words at the end were completely foreign to me. The only one of the lot that I could honestly say I knew was “pule.” The rest looked like they belonged in a Shakespearean insult. I wish I’d have written down some of the others that I didn’t know. I’m always on the lookout for new words.


  2. I got a more modest 31,200, which puts me just around the median for my age group. Which kinda surprised me, given my love of obscure words. (A favorite phrase of mine is “I used the santoku to julienne the celeriac.”) It was interesting to read this bit, though:

    Now, remember that these percentiles are not for the population as a whole, but rather just those who have taken the test online. Comparing with self-reported SAT scores from previous analysis, overall participation is in roughly the 98th percentile of the American population as a whole — it is apparently a very “elite” group of people who spend their time taking vocabulary tests on the Internet!

    So perhaps I’m just around the median of the top 2% for my age?

    I also think that since starting grad school, I read a lot more technical materials, and therefore now have a very specialized vocabulary. I had the sense that many of the more obscure words on the test (at least of the ones I knew) were weighted towards words one might come across in classic literature and history texts.


  3. 35,200 for me. I’d agree with the idea that we’re starting from a relatively small group of people interested in words and willing to take vocabulary tests. And that second page of the test makes you feel all confident as you go through the first three columns only to find you (or I) only know a handful of the last column. I would be interested to see how many of those I could have figured out in context.


    • Congratulations Zazzy! You have the highest count to date.

      You bring up a good point: I wonder how many more words I’d have gotten if they were in context. Guess we’ll never know, eh?


    • Of course you don’t, darling. Oddly enough you may not know what the words mean, but you probably could spell them correctly better than I could! Which, I do believe, explains why together we manage to get by.


    • Margaret, I imagine that you’ll know more words than I do. What with your language skills and all that reading that you do, you’re sure to score well. But if you don’t want to tell us your score I can’t make you. Woe be it for me to force you to do so.


    • Beth, the art major may explain your number, but what about Zen-Den? He most definitely did not major in art! That being said I think that 26,500 is a respectable number of words of which to know the meaning. You both did well, imho.


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