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Red Words and Stars

Did you know that the Red Words and Stars are one of Macmillan Dictionary's most popular features?

Watch our video to see what the Red Words and Stars mean for learners of English.

We have also created a Red Words & Stars pack with word frequency activities and wordlists which you can download from our resources section.

Macmillan Dictionary makes a clear distinction between high-frequency core vocabulary on the one hand, and the less common words which are mostly needed for reference on the other.

Although the English language has up to a million words, native speakers use just 7,500 words for 90% of what they speak or write. These words represent the core vocabulary of English, and they are words that everyone needs to be able to use with confidence. They appear in red in Macmillan Dictionary, along with a star rating. Three-star words are the most common 2,500 words in the language. Two-star words are the next most common, and one-star words are the next most common 2,500.

Red words are described in detail, with information provided not only about meaning, but also about grammatical behaviour, word combinations (collocation), register (informal, literary etc) and pragmatics (what the words say about the speaker's attitude). These features are often illustrated with examples taken from our corpus to show typical contexts, collocations, and grammatical patterns. All this information is carefully selected and presented in order to help people to use the word accurately and appropriately.

The black words are mostly receptive. You need to know what they mean but might not need to reproduce them when speaking or writing. So these words have just a simple definition to help you to get to the meaning straight away.

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