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BNC/COCA lists From 1k to 25k

The BNC/COCA word family lists are frequency based lists often used for graded readers or selecting vocabulary for study. This page gives information on what the BNC/COCA lists are, how they were developed, the definition of word family used in the list, as well as a complete copy of the lists from 1k to 25k, i.e. the 1st to the 25th 1000 word family lists.


Download PDF copy of the list (version 2.0.0) » (file size 15.8MB)


Download Excel copy of the list (version 2.0.0) » (file size 1.2MB)

What are the BNC/COCA lists?

The BNC/COCA word family lists, developed by Paul Nation, comprise a series of lists based on frequency level, in 1000 word bands. The version used in this website (below and in the vocabulary profiler) goes from 1k (the most frequent 1000 words) up to 25k, and therefore presents the most frequent 25000 words in English.

The BNC/COCA lists were developed to assist learners of English as a foreign language, and as such the higher frequency lists (1k and 2k) include vocabulary for foreign travel, study in English, and the internet. The lists have been used to design graded readers, i.e. books with a limited range of vocabulary, as well as course books.

Making the BNC/COCA lists

The frequency lists were made in two ways. The 1st and 2nd 1000 word family lists (1k and 2k) were drawn from a 10 million word corpus, comprising 6 million words of spoken British and American English (including films and TV programmes), together with 4 million words of written British and American English. This step was taken to ensure that the first two lists were not overly influenced by the written corpus used for later lists, meaning that very common spoken words such as pardon, hello, Dad and bye could be included. Additionally, words sets such as numbers (e.g. one, two, hundred), days of the week, and months of the year were completed, even though not all of the words appeared in the most frequent 2000 words. Finally, some 'survival' vocabulary for foreign travel was included.

The 3rd 1000 lists onwards were created using rankings in the BNC (British National Corpus) and COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English), after removing the 1k and 2k words.

Word family lists

The BNC/COCA lists show word families, with family members included up to level 6 of the Bauer and Nation word family classification. This level includes verb inflections and plurals (level 2), and prefixes and suffixes such as -able, -er, -ish, un- (level 3), -al, -ation, -ous, in- (level 4), -age, - ally, -ance, ex-, mid- (level 5) and -ee, -ic, -ify, pre-, re- (level 6). It did not include level 7, i.e. classical roots and affixes.

This definition of word family is consistent with using the list for receptive purposes, i.e. reading and listening, rather than productive, i.e. writing and speaking (for which level 2 would be more appropriate).


Nation, I.S.P. (2016) Making and Using Word Lists for Language Learning and Testing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Nation, I.S.P. (2017) The BNC/COCA Level 6 word family lists (Version 1.0.0) [Data file]. Available from

BNC/COCA lists

Use the buttons below to access the BNC/COCA lists. There are two versions: version 2.0.0 (recommended), an updated version which reorganises some word family members across the lists (including 1k and 2k lists), and includes frequency information for each word form in the 100 million BNC corpus; and version 1.0.0, the original version without frequency information. Each list is in alphabetical order. The lists do not include the proper nouns, swear words/exclamations, compounds or acronyms lists.

As the full list is too large to display on one page, you can only select a portion of the list at one time, namely 1k-3k (high frequency words), 4k-9k (mid-frequency words) and 10k-25k (low frequency words). For a full copy of the list, please download the PDF or Excel version above.


Like the website? Try the books. This extract from Unlock the Academic Wordlist: Sublists 1-3 contains all sublist 1 words, plus exercises, answers and more!



Sheldon Smith

Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 09 April 2023.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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