wiki (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Most_common_words_in_English) says

A list of 100 words that occur most frequently in written English is given below, based on an analysis of the Oxford English Corpus (a collection of texts in the English language, comprising over 2 billion running words)

What does "running" mean in "2 billion running words"?

1 Answer 1


We talk about "running text" to mean the flow of text in the main body of a document, in contrast to individual words in a list, or short structures like headings or footnotes. In the context, it seems that the editor is describing 2 billion words in extracts from running text, and not a list of 2 billion distinct words. It is reminding us of the distiction between a corpus and a dictionary.

However this does not seem to be an idiomatic or common use of the word "running". The information is a repeat from the introduction and probably should be removed or edited.

  • Thanks for your answer. Take which as an example of running words. There are 104 words in it. So, there are 104 running words, since there is no headings or footnotes in there, right?
    – brennn
    Feb 19, 2020 at 8:58
  • There are 104 words in the running text above. I would not say there are 104 running words, as I don't think that is an idiomatic expression.
    – James K
    Feb 19, 2020 at 9:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .