Janurary 17th 2020
Over the weekend I had a discussion with my friend and his family. How many words (english words that is) on average does a person know? We made some guesses. Some said ~1,000 (me, spoiler: way off), some 1 in every 2 words (which comes out to ~85,000  )
We tried to approach the problem academically so we brought out a dictionary and started testing theories. First we estimated how many words were in the dictionary by counting how many words were on a single random page and multiplying by the number of pages in the book. Then we started picking random words and seeing how many people know what they meant. We were pretty lax about keeping track but I think we averaged around 1/3 (disclaimer: I am not counting proper nouns here). Finally we decided to look up the answer and so I can say,
Today I learned the following from the internet,
The average person, (based on a study conducted by the encomist in 2013), knows somewhere between 20k-35k words.