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Which singer has the greatest vocabulary?

Writing lyrics is hard. Whenever I tried doing something like that, my creations as weaker than rhyming “gin” and “sin,” probably the lowest of all couplets. Compare that to the facility some contemporary rock artists have with words.

A site called WordTips engaged in some analysis of the lyrical output of 100 modern singers and another 100 of the greatest singers of all time and measured the number of unique words used per 1,000. Here’s what they found.

  • Patti Smith had the biggest vocabulary overall who uses 217 unique words per 1,000.
  • Billie Eilish is the contemporary singer with the biggest vocabulary: 169 per 1,000.
  • Luther Vandross and and Trey Songz are tied with 66 for the smallest vocabulary.
  • The song with the most unique words is Lou Reed’s “The Murder Mystery” (a Velvet Underground song) with 639 words.

Things plot out this way.

More findings and graphics can be found here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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6 thoughts on “Which singer has the greatest vocabulary?

  • The absence of Elvis Costello from consideration here renders this analysis immediately suspect.

    • came here to saysame thing. i love nost of the artists on the original postbut ec has all of their lexicons combined.


  • I feel like Greg Graffin should be in there somewhere.

  • Was Gord Downie considered in the making of this list?

  • Jay Farrar? Paging Jay Farrar.


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