The Academic Word List

The Academic Word List is a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university. Entries that appear on the list are shown in the dictionary with a symbol: .

The Academic Word List was developed by Averil Coxhead. For further information, visit the University of Victoria website.

How was the Academic Word List created?

The Academic Word List was developed by Averil Coxhead at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The list was developed by analysing a corpus of academic written texts to find out which words occurred across a range of 28 subject areas (such as Biology, History, Marketing, and International Law) in four academic disciplines: Arts, Commerce, Law, and Science. A corpus is an electronically-held collection of written or spoken texts, often consisting of hundreds of millions of words.

The words in the Academic Word List were selected because of their range and frequency of occurrence. The list covers roughly 10% of written academic text.

For further information about the Academic Word List, visit the University of Victoria website.

How is the Academic Word List organized?

The Academic Word List is organized into ten sublists. Sublist 1 contains the most common words in the Academic Word List. Sublist 2 contains the next most common words, and so on. There are 60 word families in each sublist, except for Sublist 10 which has 30.

How can I browse the Academic Word List?

The Academic Word List covers British and American English, so the British and American wordlists are identical. However, if you select a word on the British list, you will see the entry in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, and if you select a word on the American list, you will see the entry in the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary.

You can browse the Academic Word List by selecting a sublist. The words in each subject are listed alphabetically.

How can I use the Academic Word List to expand my vocabulary?

If you use English for academic purposes, the entries that are part of the Academic Word List make an excellent starting point for improving your knowledge of English.

One way of learning the words is by directly studying them from the sublists. As the sublists are organized according to the frequency of the words, you may choose to work through the lists in order, starting with Sublist 1, moving on to Sublist 2, and finishing with Sublist 10.

The study of short academic texts can also help you to learn the words on the Academic Word List. As you read a text, you can highlight the words you do not know and learn those that appear on the Academic Word List.

In addition to this, you can learn the words on the Academic Word List by referring to the list when you are required to speak in academic discussion or write academic texts.