word of the day

Reading a lot means encountering a lot of words, some of them uncommon or otherwise interesting. I called this tag "word of the day" because I thought I might try making a note of an interesting word each day, like a self-made vocabulary builder calendar. I haven't done that, so far, but there's always tomorrow...

As a little comparison, some stats on word frequencies (from COCA, via wordfrequency.info):

rank word words per occurrence
1005 seat 10k
4995 balloon 82k
10015 police 266k
19015 panacea 906k
31335 thin 3M
39805 ossification 6M
46305 nougat 9.3M
50035 thiamin 11.9M
55615 kleptomaniac 16.8M
59995 lithographed 22M
61945 cavil 24.8M

What does this mean in real terms? A novel is on the order of 90k words on average, so you'd expect to read about three novels to encounter a particular word as rare as police at rank 10,015, and you'd expect to read about 275 novels to encounter a given word as rare as cavil at rank 61945.

Put another way, in each novel, you expect to see approximately:

  • one word from the bottom 500 on that list, ranks 61500--62000 (e.g. cavil)
  • two words from ranks 50000--50500 (e.g. thiamin)
  • three words from ranks 40000--40500 (e.g. ossification)
  • eight words from ranks 30000--30500 (e.g. thin)
  • 22 words from ranks 20000--20500 (e.g. panacea)
  • 81 words from ranks 10000--10500 (e.g. police)
  • and any given word from the top 2000 or so at least once

Besides these, you'd see a variety of proper nouns, nonce words, and others not included in the frequency list.