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How Many 5 Letter Words In The English Language?

by Lily Morgen
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How Many 5 Letter Words In The English Language?

When you play word games like Wordle and Scrabble, do you try to play with 5-letter words? If so, have you thought how many 5-letter words are there in the English Language? 

According to The Free Dictionary, there are exactly 164,504 five-letter words (by the day of May 27th, 2023) you can play in word games like Scrabble, Words With Friends, Crosswords, and WordHub. 

But you can understand the total number of 5-letter words in the English language can vary depending on the dictionary (source) used as they may have slightly different counts depending on what they consider to be a valid English word. Meanwhile, the English language is constantly evolving, with new words being added and old words falling out of use. 

How to Estimate How Many 5-Letter Words In The English Language?

Having told about the exact number of 5-letter words, now we also use the math method to roughly estimate how many 5-letter words are there, if you’re interested.

From the Point of 26 Letters

As you know, there are 26 letters in the English alphabet. Provided a 5-letter word can use any of these letters in any position, and letters can be repeated without considering whether they form a meaningful word

Then each of the 5 positions could be filled with any of the 26 letters. Therefore, the total number would be 26^5 = 11,881,376.

However, many of these combinations would not form meaningful words. So the number of 5-letter words listed in a particular dictionary would be significantly smaller than 11,881,376.

From the Words Number in Oxford English Dictionary

There are around 600,000 words in Oxford English Dictionary (OED). This includes not just contemporary words, but also obsolete words, variant spellings, and regional and dialectal variants. Not all of these are 5-letter words, so the number of 5-letter words would be a fraction of this total. 

Here is a calculating method of estimating the number of 5-letter words

  1. Let’s take the 600,000 words in Oxford English Dictionary as the total English words base
  2. If we assume that word length is evenly distributed, which means that words of all lengths (from 1 letter to 10 letters) are equally likely to occur in the English language. Then about 1/10 of these words should be 5 letters long. 
  3. Then there are approximately 600,000 * 1/10 = 60,000 5-letter words in English vocabulary.

This is a simplifying assumption and the actual distribution of word lengths in English is not even. As you know, some lengths are less than others. For instance, shorter words (1 letter words, 2 letter words, 3 letter words) are less. Meanwhile, there are words having more than 10 letters.

Final Thought

Playing word games is a good way to expand your English vocabulary and have fun.

Besides commonly used five-letter words, knowing the total number of 5 letter words and the method of estimating may keep you thinking out of word puzzles.

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