Say What? 13 Weird, Wondrous Facts About English

English is a language spoken all over the world. During its long life and many adventures, it has picked up quite a few quirks. (Look, English, we love you, but you really need to decide if Y is a vowel or not.)

Whether you’re new to learning English or have spoken it your whole life, there are always new things to learn. Here, we’ve gathered up a bunch of cool facts about English to show how amazing—and really weird—this language can be!

1. The word run has hundreds of different senses!

Some English words can be used to mean a ton of different things. (We actually use the word polysemy to refer to a situation where a word or phrase has multiple meanings.) For example, the word run is considered to have the most senses of any English word—over 600! You can use this word to refer to a bunch of different things such as running a race, running a business, going on a grocery run, or checking to see if your fridge is running. Some other English words with tons of different senses include the words set and go. How many can you think of without looking?

2. A sentence that contains every letter in the alphabet is called a pangram.

A pangram even manages to make room for the sadly unpopular letters like Q, X, and Z. A popular example of a pangram often used to teach typing is “A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Count ‘em up if you want! All 26 are present and accounted for. Here is another goofy example of a pangram: “The joyful wizards quietly mixed groovy black potions.” Can you think up your own silly pangram? It is harder than you might think! 

3. What is the longest word in the English language?  

When it comes to the longest word in English, many consider the ludicrously long word pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis to be the champion. This 45-letter-long behemoth refers to a lung disease caused by silica dust. It makes sense, really. Most people are out of breath just looking at that mouthful!

If you love language, you’re sure to enjoy these fabulous gems from the English language. Check out some of the cool words English has to offer.

4. What is the most commonly used word in English?

Before you read the answer, see if you can guess what it might be. Give up? The data shows that the word the is the most commonly used English word. Taking the silver medal is the verb be (and all of its forms). The helpful conjunction and takes third place. Finally, the words a, of, to, in, I, you, and it round out the top 10.

5. What is the shortest sentence in English?

No, we aren’t counting sentence fragments like “I!” or “Me!” here. It is commonly agreed upon that the shortest grammatically correct sentence is “Go.” This two-letter sentence manages to be so brief because it is an imperative sentence, which means that it has an implied subject of “you.” Some out there may accuse “Go.” of cheating and instead award the crown to the three-letter sentence “I am.” which has an explicit subject.

6. What is the most commonly used letter?

Savvy students of English (or fans of Wheel of Fortune) could probably guess that the most common English letter is a vowel. But did you know that the most commonly used letter is the letter E? Another fun fact: the 12 most popular English letters (E, T, A, O, I, N, S, R, H, L, D, and C) appear in around 80 percent of all words? Fans of J, X, Z, and Q will, alas, need to search a lot harder to find their favorite letter.

7. -Ough can be pronounced in at least 10 different ways! 

Many say that English can be a pretty tricky language, and the letter cluster of -ough is often Exhibit A in the argument supporting this opinion. The different ways to pronounce this bunch of letters includes:

 

  • -off: Words like cough and trough rhyme with scoff.
  • -uff: Words like tough, rough, and enough rhyme with stuff.
  • -ow: The word plough rhymes with now.
  • -oh: The word though rhymes with go.
  • -uh: The common British pronunciation of the word thorough rhymes with pizza.
  • -oo: The word through rhymes with zoo.
  • -up: The word hiccough (a variant of hiccup) rhymes with pickup.
  • -awt: The word thought rhymes with got.
  • -ock: The obscure word hough rhymes with rock.
  • -och: The word lough (a rendering of the Irish loch, meaning “lake”) can be pronounced with a guttural sound in the back of the throat

Yikes! That all seems pretty tough, but it can be managed through thorough thought, though!

8. Does anything rhyme with orange?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to look for a door hinge to find a perfect rhyme to orange. The word sporange, which refers to a sac that spores come from, is just what you need. If you’re writing a poem about fungus, anyway.

However, the words bulb, angel, and month don’t have any perfect rhymes in English. It breaks our heart to know that all of that poetry about monthly angelic bulbs will never be perfected.

9. Which word will score you the most points in Scrabble?

The record for the highest-scoring word ever pulled off in tournament-play Scrabble (yes, that’s a thing) was set in 1982 when player Karl Khoshnaw managed to create the word caziques. This word is an accepted alternate spelling of the word caciques, which refers to tribal chiefs of clans located in Mexico and the West Indies.

10. What is the longest single-word palindrome in English?

A palindrome is a word, phrase, or sentence that is the same when read forward or backward. For example, the words wow and madam are palindromes. The longest single-word palindrome in English is the word tattarrattat. And, no, this word didn’t result from a cat walking across a typewriter. At least, we don’t think so …

Tattarrattat is an onomatopoeia created by author James Joyce that appeared in his novel Ulysses. This word refers to the sound made by knocking on a door.

11. What is the longest English word that doesn’t repeat a letter?

It’s considered a three-way tie for the coveted title of “longest word that only uses each letter once.” The three co-champions are:

 

  • Dermatoglyphics: This word refers to the patterns found on the ridges of the inner hand or foot.
  • Misconjugatedly: If you were to attempt to use this word in a sentence, it would theoretically refer to a situation in which a verb was not conjugated correctly.
  • Uncopyrightable: This word refers to something that you cannot copyright.

12. What is the longest English word that is in alphabetical order?

For English-lovers who want everything to be perfectly organized, the word Aegilops is perfect. This eight-letter word is the longest English word that has all of its letters in the same order that they appear in the alphabet. As for what it means, Aegilops is the name of a genus of grasses related to wheat, which means you should have no problems at all working it into a sentence.

13. What is the shortest English word that has all five vowels?

The petite word eunoia will break the bank if you’re ever in the market for vowels, as it has all five of them despite only being six letters long. The word eunoia comes from Greek and means “beautiful thinking.”

Ace our quiz on these astounding facts!

English is a wonderfully weird language and these fun facts have only scratched the surface of things to know about the English language. There is so much more to learn about English, and you can expand your English knowledge through all of the great tools and articles available at both Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com

Before you start exploring, though, we have a challenging quiz to test what you’ve just learned about English.

Make Your Writing Shine!

Get grammar tips, writing tricks, and more from Thesaurus.com ... right in your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Ready for some cool words about the color blue?