It's easy to feel like a Mensa member when you're discussing politics with that weird relative over Thanksgiving dinner. Then it feels like you don't know any words at all when you're forced to make small talk with a co-worker at a forced social function. But how many words do you actually know?
An expansive new study published by Frontiers in Psychology has taken on that impossible task. The researchers set out to figure just how many words the average person knows and discovered by age 20 you know around 42,000 words. As you age, you gain about one new word every two days, meaning that by age 60 you've acquired an additional 6,000 words.
"Our research got a huge push when a television station in the Netherlands asked us to organize a nationwide study on vocabulary knowledge," says lead researcher Professor Marc Brysbaert of Ghent University in Belgium. "The test we developed was featured on TV and, in the first weekend, over 300 thousand Dutch speakers had done it."
The study was done by volunteers online and quickly became so popular that the researchers developed versions in English and Spanish. It gave the team an unprecedented amount of data to work with.