Top 20 baby words

DC2 is about to the age in which ze starts saying things, so I got to wondering what are the early words that babies say.

Fortunately, there’s research on this topic.  I came across a 2008 article from some psychologists at Stanford that includes a chart titled, Rank-Ordered Top 20 Words for Children Who Can Say 1–10 Words on CDI and Percentage of Children Producing Them, by Language

It’s Table 4 if you click that link.  They include Hong Kong and Beijing’s words as well.

Here’s the words for the United States (copied from Tardif et al. 2008).
(n = 264)
Daddy
Mommy
BaaBaa
Bye
Hi

UhOh
Grr
Bottle
Yum Yum
Dog
No
Woof Woof
Vroom
Kitty
Ball
Baby
Duck
Cat
Ouch
Banana

My first word (not counting Ma’s and Da’s) was the same as my oldest’s first word, “Hi” there on the list.  DC2 hasn’t gotten to “Hi.”  Months ago DC2 was saying key (for kitty) but that seems to have dropped out of the lexicon and has been replaced with Ca (for cat).  Dog has been added.    Ze says, “Yeah,” a lot to signal agreement. Ze can make three different sounds that dogs make — “bowwow” they taught at daycare, “woof” I taught hir, and DH taught hir panting [update:  ze can also make stuffed dog make the slobbery dog kisses sound now, so that's 4].  Occasionally we’ll hear a ba for bottle, or a bana or nana for banana.  Ze may be saying a lot more, but it’s awfully difficult to tell with the pronunciation.  I remember that DC1 was really into animal sounds, especially barn animals, when ze started to talk in earnest.

Do you have any cute baby word stories?  What was your first word?  Were your first or your children’s first (if applicable) on the list?

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34 Responses to “Top 20 baby words”

  1. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    We’re back up! Time to start sharing cute baby word stories!

  2. Chris Says:

    What did you do? Are cute baby sayings a violation of the wordpress blog policy?

    My daughter’s first word was “snot”. I kid you not. I was playing with her one day and she had such a snotty nose. In my dumbest baby voice I was saying “you have so much snot! so much snot!” and she copied me.

    Sadly, I have no memory of my 2nd’s first word (although I’m sure it’s written in a baby book somewhere). I do have a darling recording on my answering machine of him playing with my husband’s phone. He had accidentally dialed my office and was cooing “aaaoh, we deah, we deah” It took me a while to decipher, but I’m pretty sure he thought he was saying “Hello, who’s there, who’s there”

  3. We’re Back! | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

    […] [ETA:  Please start/continue conversation on baby words in today's actual post!] […]

  4. Kingston Says:

    Maybe equally bad (good?) as “snot,” my older son’s first word was “diaper.” (It sounded more like “bapu,” but it was clear what he was trying to say.) Happily, the much cuter “duck” soon followed. My second would get us all riled up by saying, “A dee! A dee!” (“A deer! A deer!”) as we drove along our rural roads, but then he’d laugh at us because there wasn’t one.

  5. plantingourpennies Says:

    Part of family lore says that two of my earliest words were “no” and “why” (usually as part of my refusal to do something). Joking about my obstinance was a pretty common practice, so I’m not quite sure how true these are. =)

  6. bogart Says:

    As I recall (perhaps incorrectly) my LO’s first words were “hot” and “hat,” probably in that order. They came along at almost the same time and sounded EXACTLY the same when he said them, a source of major frustration to him as the grownups didn’t GET IT.

    A little later when he would want to discuss (often) what people were doing (usually construction workers and such) but didn’t have the words for it, he would just point at them and say in a very excited voice, “Doing! Doing! Doing!!!” At which point being the sort of parents who say 30 million words before baby is 5, or whatever that threshold is, we would of course launch into an elaborate discussion of what the people he was pointing at were “Doing!!!”

  7. Rented life Says:

    It’s not a first word but my cousin’s son (not quite a year and a half) had dropped his bottle on the other side of the baby gate and very clearly said “shit.” His dad said, “And what was I to say? He used it in proper context and I’m sure he heard it from me.”

  8. Practical Parsimony Says:

    Mama said one of my first words after Mama and Daddy was “ball.” She said I would say it and hold my mouth in a perfect O for the longest time.

    My son said “ah DEE da lie” all the time when he was less than nine months old. We think he was saying “telephone.” When the phone rang, I would say “telephone” in a lilting voice. I was talking to no one in particular, but I said it to teach and entertain him. I think he was just copying me. I often said this over and over as I carried him to answer the phone.

    The third said “piece” when she wanted some food someone else had or another piece of food from my place. At a pizza restaurant, she was saying “wanna piece.” My silly friend was embarrassed by her little but loud voice wanting a piece. Her first word after Mama and Daddy was “good girl.” I said this to her as she tried to get out of her car seat. I would reach back, pull her foot as I said, “Sit down!” Then, I would smile at her in the mirror and say, “Good girl.”

    “Didee” was diaper, but not the one for her bottom. She sucked her thumb and carried a diaper to cuddle and rub as she did so. When she dropped it from her crib or when I was carrying her, she would look for it and say, “Didee.” Her first word was Mama, then didee, but her father swore she was wanting him. Since she would say Didee and look at the floor, it was not even possible she wanted him. plus, she expressed great joy when someone retrieved the out of reach diaper. She announced the need for a diaper change by saying “stinky.” I would change her and say “You are so stinky. stinky.” The two older children would say “Stinky” when she needed changing. She was fascinated with cows, so “cow” was probably the fourth or fifth word she learned. If she were crying in the car, I could say, “Let’s look for cows” and she would stop crying and look out the window, saying “cow” over and over again.

  9. Debbie M Says:

    So does DC2 know more doggy words than human words?

    Here’s my family lore for first utterance:
    Me – “daddy”
    My brother – “Why’d I do that?” See, he never liked green food and he would just let it drip out of his mouth. At which point Mom would say, “Why’d you do that?” He took a while to start talking. And that was his first utterance. Winner!
    My sister – “mezuzah” – Mom wore a mezuzah on a chain around her neck and my sister would grab it and pull on it, and so that’s how she heard its name over and over. Not doggy language–same species–but also a different language.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think human words are edging out doggy words, but there may be more doggy words than the 4 I’ve counted. Not sure why the fascination with doggies. Possibly daycare related. (We think daycare is also responsible for hir current belly button and nose fascinations, but who knows. Also immediately starting to dance whenever music plays.)

  10. Tree of Knowledge Says:

    Nephew and Niece both said “cat” as their first words. I’ll have to ask my mom what mine was; I really have no idea what it was even though I know it’s in my baby book.

  11. Cloud Says:

    Hmmm. The 6 year old’s first non mama/dada word was “buh” for bird (accompanied with the sign or we might not have figured it out). I can’t remember the 4 y.o.’s first word. It is written down, but that book is in her room and she’s asleep. So I’ll have to come back and tell you tomorrow!

    It would be interesting to study how the use of sign language with babies changes the list. Some of the early word preferences are physical limitations of the palette, etc., I think. I wonder what first signs are? (I’d have to look that up, too, for my kids- it might be written down.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      More, I think was the first sign for both of ours. :) Actually, I think DC1 kissed bye-bye first, but that’s not technically a sign, just something one of the mother’s helpers worked on. Oh, and DC2 also waved bye-bye pretty early, which I guess technically is a sign.

      Also the local preschool dialect for “more” is different from the technical sign, so DC1 learned the dialect version first and DC2 switched once ze started preschool.

  12. saucyturtles Says:

    Mine: “hair” My eldest’s: “dadu,” which, we eventually realized, meant “thank you,” which we said when playing give-and-take. I’m sorry to report that the younger kids just started talking and we never really noticed what came first.

  13. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    Glad you’re back =)

    My two year old just started talking. We were really starting to get worried. Then, all of a sudden, she went from no words to a ton of words almost overnight. And, a month after starting, she’s talking in phrases and making sense. I think she was holding out on us.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Some kids don’t start until they are able to do a better job of talking. (We learned that in linguistics in college.) I know a famous prof with a McArthur genius award (who just put out a soon-to-be bestselling book) who didn’t start talking at all until he could do sentences.

  14. Perpetua Says:

    My eldest’s first word was “bird”. My mother claims (in my baby book) that mine was “thank you”. I also didn’t note my second child’s first word. but I can report he has stopped talking for one second since then.

  15. Ana Says:

    Is it weird that I’m honestly not sure? There were so many “not-quite words” or “maybe they are words or maybe just babbling” that it was hard to tell. Like, was “dadada” Daddy? was buh actually bird? or bus? I probably need to make something up because it seems odd for a mother not to have a clue what her young children’s first words were. B said BUS! a lot, that’ll be his. L said “MORE” or actually iwanmore (I want more), so that’ll be his.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, we just pick the one that is really obvious– clear and used appropriately and more than once (“Hi!” as a response to “hi” or chasing the cat around saying, “keyyyyy keyyyy”). For all we know ze could have been saying all sorts of stuff and we have no idea. But it’s the one that we picked up that’s the one that matters.

  16. Happy Says:

    I just had to look this up for my three year old. I swore I’d remember these things but I’m grateful that I’ve been keeping track! Anyway, his first word was “nay nay” which meant “no, absolutely not”. Apparently not much has changed in the last couple of years….

  17. MutantSupermodel Says:

    This led me down a rabbit hole of blog posts and made me all emo and I still have no answer.

  18. Blue Russian Says:

    When ours was three she insisted that her last name was Jones-a-breast. This went on for a year and we had no idea why. We finally realized what it was… Every night at bedtime when she was 2ish we would make a train up the stairs and get on the “Jones Express”. She thought we said Jones-a-breast.


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