Connect with us

ATV Today

Report reveals the trending words most used by 5–11-year-olds

Lifestyle

Report reveals the trending words most used by 5–11-year-olds

Oxford University Press has analysed the language used in nearly 44,000 creative writing stories submitted by children across the UK to the BBC 500 Words competition, the UK’s most celebrated children’s writing competition.

  • Children’s writing reflects the world around them, including themes of contemporary conflict – there are significant increases in mentions of Gaza (+1914%), Ukraine (+1287), Israel (+758%), and Palestine (+415%), with boys demonstrating a doubled propensity for the use of the word ‘war’ in their narratives than girls
  • Use of the word AI has surged dramatically, skyrocketing by a huge 411% since 2020, with mentions of AI in 2023 often associated with a dangerous entity
  • There have been significant changes in the frequency and context of words such as Barbie (+109%), TikTok (+22%) and Lioness(es) (+37%) since 2020
  • The winning BBC 500 Words stories will be revealed and read aloud in a special The One Show programme on World Book Day, Thursday 7 March at 7:00pm

The report analysed the language used in 44,000 stories submitted to the BBC 500 Words competition from children aged 5-11 across the UK, revealing the latest topics and words most used by the next generation, as well as ones which have increased in popularity this year. Among these are words associated with contemporary conflict, royalty, the environment, neurodiversity, and AI, offering invaluable insights into the evolving linguistic landscape of young minds.

The stories have been analysed by lexicographers, researchers and teachers at Oxford University Press, who have partnered with BBC 500 Words for over ten years to produce a series of children’s language reports. The stories have been added to the Oxford Children’s Corpus, one of the world’s largest databases of children’s written language in English, containing over half a billion words, and which is regularly used to inform OUP’s wider language research.

Helen Freeman, Director of Oxford Children’s, Oxford University Press:

“BBC 500 Words is an extraordinary and wonderful initiative. Oxford University Press has had the privilege of analysing the stories and the ways that children use their words for ten years. The stories they create never fail to surprise, delight, and inform. When a child submits their story to BBC 500 Words, not only are they entering a brilliant creative writing competition, but they are also contributing to learning. Every single story becomes part of an incredible database of children’s language (The Oxford Children’s Corpus) and this adds to an important body of research that is impactful and long-lasting”

The themes of contemporary conflict featured more prominently in children’s writing in 2023, with significant mentions of Gaza (+1914%), Ukraine (+1287), Israel (+758%), and Palestine (+415%). Boys were also found to be twice as likely to use the word war in their narratives than girls.

Other topical themes which were reflected in children’s language in 2023 include royalty and the environment, with King Charles and Queen Camilla taking the top two places in the top 10 famous names featured in the BBC 500 words stories. The changing climate, protecting the environment and saving the planet remained common themes in children’s writing, similar to 2020, with story titles such as ‘Planet Cleansweep Saves The Earth’ and ‘Protectors of the Planet’.

Use of the word AI has surged dramatically, skyrocketing by a huge +411% since 2020 with mentions of AI in 2023 often associated with a dangerous entity. ChatGPT is a new word which featured regularly in the 2023 stories and is used in a similar way to AI, referenced as an intelligent and independent entity. There have also been significant changes in the frequency and context of words such as Barbie (+109%) – which saw a resurgence in 2023 following the release of the blockbuster film by the same name – TikTok (+22%) and Lioness(es) (+37%).

Following the success of the England women’s football team, Lioness was used over a third more than in 2020. Whilst almost all instances of Lioness(es) in 2020 were references to the animal, over half of the mentions in 2023 were in reference to football. The name ‘Mary’ also appears more often in 2023 (+23%), which could be attributed to the popularity of England goalkeeper and BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner, Mary Earps.

Children were more likely to write about neurodiversity in their stories in 2023. Autistic (+306%), autism (+67%) and ADHD (+477%) all occurred more frequently, and children often described them as a superpower or highlighted associated strengths.

Helen Foulkes, Head of BBC Education:

“This report demonstrates children’s awareness to the world around them, evident in the significant rise of words related to contemporary conflict and new technologies in this year’s BBC 500 Words submissions. Our ongoing collaboration with Oxford University Press is invaluable, providing crucial insights for those in children’s education and this partnership is just one of the many reasons why we continue to host the BBC 500 Words competition”.

New words for 2023:

  • ChatGPT
  • Squishmallow
  • Skibidi
  • Elara
  • Zadie
  • Bellingham
  • Kado
  • Salish

The winning BBC 500 Words stories will be revealed and read out on a special The One Show programme on World Book Day, this evening (March 7) excluding BBC One Scotland.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

More in Lifestyle

To Top