The Oxford 3000™ from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary

The Oxford 3000™

Some entries in the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary contain a key symbol, indicating that they are on the Oxford 3000™ list of important words. The keywords of the Oxford 3000 have been carefully chosen by a group of language experts and experienced teachers as the most important and useful words to learn in English. The selection is based on three criteria:

The words that are used most frequently are included, based on the information in the American English section of the Oxford English Corpus. A corpus is an electronically held collection of written and spoken texts, and this corpus contains more than 2 billion words. However, just being frequent in the corpus is not enough for a word to be chosen as a keyword. Some words may be used very frequently, but only in a limited area, such as in newspapers or scientific articles. In order to avoid including these restricted words, we include as keywords only those words that are frequent across a range of different types of texts. In other words, keywords are both frequent, and used in a variety of contexts.

In addition, the list also includes some important words that are very familiar to most users of English, even though they are not used very frequently. These include, for example, words for parts of the body, words used in travel, and words that are useful for explaining what you mean when you do not know the exact word for something. These words were identified by asking a group of experts in the fields of teaching and language study.

The words of the Oxford 3000 are marked in the dictionary with a key symbol [key]. The keywords are an excellent starting point for expanding your vocabulary. With most keywords, there is much more to learn about them than the first meaning in an entry. These words often have many meanings, have a large family or words that come from them, or are used in a variety of patterns.

The list covers American English only. Some basic phrases are also included. Proper names (names of people, places, etc. beginning with a capital letter) are not included in the list.

In order to make the definitions in this dictionary easier to understand, they are all written using the keywords of the Oxford 3000. All words used in normal definition text are keywords, or are on our list of language study terms. Numbers and proper names are also used in definitions. When it has been necessary to use a specialist term that is not in the list, the word is shown in a different style. On a desktop or laptop computer, you can double-click on any word in definitions or examples to jump to that entry.

Use our Text Checker to check which words in any text are part of the Oxford 3000™. You can use this information to judge the difficulty of that text.


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Oxford 3000™ wordlist