Five centuries of investigating the most popular words

By on July 28, 2012

Matjaž Perc analyzed 5.2 million English language books over five centuries to determine word popularity. Jessica Hamzelou summarizes his findings:

“The” was top in both 1520 and 2008. Common groups of words have changed, though. The most common three-word phrase in 2008 was “one of the”; in 1520, it was “of the Pope”. References to religion featured heavily in early literature, Perc notes. For example, “the Pope and his followers”, “the laws of the Church” and “the body and blood of Christ” all feature in the 10 most popular five-word phrases of 1520. By 2008, the most frequently written five-word phrases were along the lines of “at the end of the”, “in the middle of the” and “on the other side of”.

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