Overall, the wordlists
from the British National Corpus (list
are quite good. However, because there are some
important differences between COCA
and the BNC in terms of size and how recent the corpora are, and so the
BNC may not be as accurate for low-frequency words and for new words in
the language. Note also that the wordlists from the BNC (list
do not provide anything beyond the bare wordlist -- no collocates, no
synonyms, etc -- and therefore no indication of the meaning and use of
Overall, for the top 5,000 words there is
about a 10% difference between the the COCA and the BNC wordlists (see explanation of
methodology below), beyond spelling differences (favo(u)rite,
program(me), categori[s/z]e, etc).
Things get somewhat more problematic at lower levels, where the BNC lists
diverge 30-35% from what is found in the COCA lists.
Some differences in the wordlists are related to culture, society, politics, or current
events (e.g. Am
Republican, congressional, baseball, Iraqi; Br Tory,
parliamentary, Victorian), some are just
different words for the "same" concept (e.g. store/shop,
attorney/solicitor, apartment/flat, mom/mum), and some words in COCA
(1990-2019) refer to
things that are too new to have made it into the pre-1993 BNC (e.g.
web, Internet, high-tech, online).
+American (COCA) / -British
The following are just a
sampling of the words that are much more common in COCA than in the BNC.
In all cases, the word is at least twice as far down the list in the BNC
wordlist as in COCA (e.g. #2000 in COCA, #5000 in BNC).
Verb: call, report,
focus, guess, sign, step, figure, roll, fire, hire, file, oppose, wrap,
interview, accomplish, testify, bake, track, evolve, violate, target,
pitch, flip, ruin, hike, invade
president, percent, kid, guy, nation, photo, arm, American, Republican, phone, movie, store, lawyer, Democrat,
professor, expert, senator, break, camera, coach, item, mom, dream,
attorney, scientist, web, camp, truck, apartment, bowl, baseball,
federal, tough, native, Iraqi, crazy, smart, Israeli, Mexican,
congressional, elementary, online, gifted, athletic, ongoing, African-american,
suburban, Hispanic, scary, high-tech, cute, nonprofit, immigrant,
skeptical, aging, low-income, interstate
+British (BNC) / -American
The following are just a
sampling of the words that are much more common in the BNC than in COCA.
In all cases, the word is at least twice as far down the list in the
COCA wordlist as in the BNC (e.g. #2000 in the BNC, #5000 in COCA).
suppose, regard, voice, bind, retain, undertake, phone, wan, allocate,
knit, book, abolish, envisage, incur, fancy, commence, enclose, enquire,
sack, adjourn, tidy, query, retort, queue, nick, remand, smelt
Noun: council, minister, union, pound, scheme, shop, principle,
village, provision, sector, appeal, parliament, mum, tea, lord,
cabinet, pension, flat, expenditure, solicitor, coal, crown, castle,
pub, parish, tenant, councillor, countryside, plaintiff, autumn,
European, English, royal, French, industrial, Scottish, lovely, working,
bloody, parliamentary, alright, statutory, keen, Welsh, Tory, socialist,
unemployed, delighted, Victorian, liable, superb, working-class,
compulsory, splendid, post-war, dreadful, redundant, inland, wee