Which words can be found in a children’s dictionary?

So many words –  but which ones are most relevant to children? Animals, plants, clothes, fruits, vegetables, musical instruments, or body parts…. you name it. One thing is clear: you will find “apple” in a kid’s dictionary, but not “stinky fruit”. Why is that?


Because some words are more often used and hence more relevant than others. Which words are more relevant than others is however not always that clear. It depends on a lot of factors, like the passing of time, the creation of new words, words that come out of blogs, or the internet and the media. So the flood of new words trying to enter the dictionary is never ending, sometimes eroding the value of traditional established ones. Some old words survive, but often enough their connotation changes over time. For example, since the appearance of the internet we “surf” the web, and not necessarily a surfboard on the ocean.


Rule of thumb

In regards to the composition of a children’s dictionary, there is a rule of thumb: the core of each language consists of approximately 1500 words. These words are so common in daily usage that we often forget to notice them, for example “Mama, Papa, up, down”. As this language core stands firmly its ground, there’s not much place to add other extravagant words. But who actually decides how and which words are going to be added or not?


Children’s dictionarie’s reflect the passage of each time époque. Earlier, decisions regarding the word entries were largely based on the subjective opinion of the lexicographer. Today, each language has its own pool of words which appear most frequently in daily use. With the use of logarithms one can now determine which words are relevant, and which are not. Hereby one does not take into consideration only fictional and educational literature, but also the language of the kids themselves. And that’s exactly why children’s dictionaries reflect so well the speaking habits of each time period. Comparing these wonderful different dictionaries gives us an amazing insight into the evolution of language, and hence the evolution of our thoughts, habits, and lifestyles.