Since there are so many language resources on the internet nowadays, I was wondering if there is an online dictionary(or any other language tool) that would list the words not only in the alphabetical order, but also by the frequencies of their occurrence. I don't care how the frequencies are calculated - it may be based on something as primitive as google search results count or it can be based on occurrence in newspapers/books only.

The reason I am looking for such a tool is that I have been searching for an efficient means to enrich my vocabulary for a while. The best I found so far is vocabulary.com. The problem with vocabulary.com, however, is that it more often than not suggests really strange (not to say weird) words that a lot of native speakers don't even know. I have nothing against learning literary words, but I think I should get to it only after I've covered most of the mainstream words. That's why I am looking for a tool which would arrange words according to their occurrence. I would then pick the next N words each day from that list, feed it to vocabulary.com and learn them using their technique.

So, is my request too absurd or is there hope I could find what I'm looking for or at least something similar?

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    not a dictionary, but a way to learn words based on frequency is freerice.com, multiple choice (unfortunately single word answers so sometimes misleading/no nuance). – Mitch Apr 11 '12 at 14:21
  • what I meant was that freerice gives you multiple choice vocab questions, if you get a few right in a row, you go up a level to slightly less frequent words. If you miss a few you go down a level to higher frequency words. Also, if you miss one, it will retry it a few questions later. So essentially adapts to what you don't know, testing what it thinks you don't know yet until you get it (and ordered by frequency of word use). – Mitch Apr 11 '12 at 15:10
  • Just checked out vocabulary.com, it looks very much like free rice except: you can create you own vocab lists, and it doesn't go by frequency (but it is adaptive). As to words that native speakers don't always know, it looks geared to college prep exams (SAT, TOEFL), which actually may be more relevant than the selection of words at freerice.com, though for those tests, the words are usually out of the mainstream. Maybe you can use other word lists at vocabulary.com? – Mitch Apr 11 '12 at 15:43
  • @jwpat7: I don't think this is exactly a duplicate. The other question asks for a tool that determines frequency. I am asking for a list of all the English words according to their frequency. In any case, the answers to the allegedly duplicate question do not answer my question. There was a curious link in the question itself, but it had too few words in it. – Armen Ծիրունյան Apr 11 '12 at 16:21

wordfrequency.info has, it says, "simple word lists of the top 5,000-60,000 words" and "word lists + genre frequency". Some lists are available free at the site, others have fees.

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I don't know much about on-line tools, but most dictionaries highlight whether the term we are looking up is very frequent or not, whether it is academic or everyday language, etc. For example, Longman Exams Dictionary marks the 3000 most important words to know using a blue lozenge and adding S1, S2 or S3 to show that the word is one of the 1000/2000/3000 most frequent words in spoken English, and W1, W2 and W3 for written English. Instead, the label AC indicates an Academic word, which might be useful to know when writing an assignment.

Other dictionaries have a different code but they supply more or less the same kind of information. These dictionaries are available as online resources as well (sometimes you need to sign up for them).

UPDATE This is a link to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary Online. Under the heading "Wordlists" you can find a list for the 3000 most used words, then you have something similar for academic vocabulary and also the possibility to see illustrations for the words of your choice.

On the other hand, if you just want to have word lists, you may try this link. The downside of it is that terms are just listed, and you must look for definitions elsewhere, but the bright side is that they have a variety of lists, from very basic to more articulate ones, both for British and American English. There is also a list of frequent adjectives and nouns.

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  • 1
    I'm new to EL&U, so I'd like to understand why my comment was downvoted: is it because it does not refer specifically to online dictionaries? Or because the dictionaries I mention still list words in alphabetical order instead of frequency order? Or is it just because someone did not like my reply? – Paola Apr 11 '12 at 23:30
  • Shame to say that though I've been using longman dictionary for a long time, I didn't pay much attention to the 'S1, S2, S3' etc part until I found your illuminating answer. This part of information is really very helpful. Thanks for your sharing. – Searene Oct 31 '14 at 2:10

Take a look at http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Frequency_lists

They have frequency lists there. You can then pick the most important words you don't know, and create your own lists using various programs and websites.

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Here is one that I find useful: http://www.wordfrequency.info/files/entries.pdf

A dictionary with every seventh word, from word #35 on, from the word frequency list of the Corpus of Contemporary American English

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The term for this is a concordance. There are lots of them online for specific works (Bible, Shakespeare etc) or specific areas (law, engineering).

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  • Does a concordance indicate the frequency of a word? – Mitch Apr 11 '12 at 15:07
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    @mitch the ones for Bible/Shakespeare do, I haven't found a good general English one online – mgb Apr 11 '12 at 15:14

What also works for me is get the list of either 5K, 10K or 20K most frequently used words in English from Word Frequency and install the Google Dictionary (by Google) on Chrome. This way, one can click twice on a word from the list and get the definition of the world from the Google Dictionary extension.

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