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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 05:18 GMT 06:18 UK
The popularity of 'time' unveiled
Oxford dictionary
The love of phrases may help boost the use of some nouns in the list
The word "time" is the most common noun in the English language, according to the latest Oxford dictionary.

Oxford University Press researchers looked on the internet at newspapers, journals, fictions and weblogs to take a snapshot of our everyday language.

"Person" was ranked at number two, while "man" reached number seven and "woman" was behind at number 14.

The new "common words" section put "work" in 15th place, but "play" and "rest" were not in the top 100 nouns.

The section is included in the revised 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, which is viewed as a guide to our evolving language.

1 Time
2 Person
3 Year
4 Way
5 Day
6 Thing
7 Man
8 World
9 Life
10 Hand

The subject of time is also a common theme, with "year" being the third most common noun, "day" in fifth place and "week" at 17.

The OUP researchers also found that "government" made a strong showing in the list at number 20, but we appear to mention "war" , at number 49, more than "peace" - which was not in the top 100 nouns.

The 100 most common words were expected ones such as "the", "to" and "of". But researchers found looking at the most common nouns provided an interesting insight.

OUP project manager Angus Stevenson said much of the frequency of the use of words such as "time" and "man" could be put down to the English love of phrases, such as "time waits for no man."

"The thing that struck me when I put together this list was that 90% of the top 100 words were one syllable, and that a large proportion were actually from Old English, meaning the basic words we use all the time in basic sentences are from before the Norman Conquest," he said.

"We always put the focus on new words, changing language and words from other countries, but in reality the basic language we use has been the same for hundreds and hundreds of years."

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