Mental Floss

What Are the Oldest Words in English?

Bess Lovejoy
the mag
Chi Birmingham
Chi Birmingham / Chi Birmingham
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We don't know for sure, but there are contenders. In 2013, researchers at the University of Reading in England looked at a variety of words that sound similar across different Indo-European languages. By analyzing the rate of change, they arrived at 23 “ultra-conserved” words that have likely sounded the same for the last 15,000 years. The oldest? I, who, two, three, and five. Other ultra-conserved words include man, mother, ashes, and worm.


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