High Frequency Words: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Are High Frequency Words?
  • 1:53 Examples
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

You don't have to be a dog to hear 'high frequency words;' in fact, we encounter them every day! In this lesson, discover what makes these words 'high-frequency,' and see some examples that you may have even used today.

What Are High Frequency Words?

What are some of the words you've used today? Perhaps you wrote your grandmother to tell her how 'elated' you were to receive her gift; or maybe you commented on how to maintain a 'salubrious' environment in biology class? You would recall employing these vocabulary terms because they're not words that many of us use on a regular basis.

But what about words like of, an, or could? You might not specifically remember using such high frequency words because these terms are those that appear most commonly in everyday usage, so they—oddly enough—tend to be overlooked. High frequency words are employed so often that our brains even have their own place for them!

Some of the most frequently used words are simple verbs and nouns like write or pair. However, many are also terms that are crucial to our understanding of English. In fact, the majority of the 100 most commonly seen words are articles, pronouns (i.e. I,'that, and your), prepositions, auxiliaries, or forms of the verb 'to be' (such as am, is and were). The definite article the is the most frequently seen word in the English language, and the indefinite articles a and an are on the list as well.

Prepositions are the part of speech that describes the relationships between other words in a sentence, and examples like of and to populate top positions on the high frequency word list.

Like prepositions, auxiliary words such as would, do, can, or not don't make much sense on their own, but these terms are often essential to conveying the correct verbal meaning. Words like these and the examples we'll look at in a minute, represent only a few of the terms that we use most often. Nevertheless, take a look at these high frequency words and see how easily you recognize them!


#3: and

Another part of speech readily found on the high frequency word list is the conjunction. As the name suggests, conjunctions like and, or, and but combine parts of a sentence or list together. It's no surprise, then, that these important connectors are so often used.

#226: mother

Historically, females have often been unequally represented compared to males. In the realm of high frequency words, the story's not much different, with men ranking at #148 and women coming in at #685. However, when it comes to which parent children seem to call on the most, mother beats out father every time!

#305: United States

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