Sorry for the click bait title - I'm assuming Afghanistan is not the 8th most used proper noun in German. However it's listed as such in what appears to be one of the most popular German frequency dictionary:

Routledge Frequency Dictionaries - A Frequency Dictionary of German: Core Vocabulary for Learners

So this question is more out of curiosity about the Leipzig/BYU Corpus of Contemporary German. Can anyone comment on it? That Afghanistan should be listed as the 8th most used proper noun in German makes me wonder about the corpus and this dictionary that's based off it. That the DDR is listed as the 5th most used proper noun and Schröder as one of the most used names seems to point to it being less than contemporary (and not particularly broad).

I can't believe that even a corpus limited to just world news and the time around Peter Struck's famous quote back in 2004 that "Unsere Sicherheit wird nicht nur, aber auch am Hindukusch verteidigt" would yield such a high result for Afghanistan.

Proper nouns by frequency

  • 4
    Isn't it better for Skeptics.SO?
    – Eller
    Nov 30, 2017 at 16:02
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    Afghanistan is in discussion about being a safe enough country for Afghan people to return to. It's a hot topic since about 2 years but it was cooking for since about 2005.
    – Janka
    Nov 30, 2017 at 16:12
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    First, perhaps, we should know what this strange list defines as "proper nouns". Then, we should know what text corpus that list is based on. Nov 30, 2017 at 17:58
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    @Marzipanherz Yes, it's only names. Because this is a list of names. So it's no wonder that the list of names consists only of names.
    – Eller
    Dec 1, 2017 at 10:29
  • 1
    @GeorgeHawkins I added another source from Uni Leipzig. Have a look, should be quite interesting.
    – mike
    Dec 1, 2017 at 18:58

4 Answers 4


A lot depends on what time period you are referring to. If the question is, "is Afghanistan (a world trouble spot for "current events") a "top ten" item this year (or any year for about the past ten or so)," then it seems plausible.

If the question is, "Is Afghanistan a "top ten" printed proper noun in all of history," basically since Gutenberg invented moving type, I would expect a very different answer.

  • As I commented on @fdb's answer I don't dispute that Afghanistan has become far more newsworthy in recent years but I'm still sceptical it should rank so highly. I looked at 2004 and 2005 for my fdb comment, I then looked further - at the height of revelations about the Kunduz airstrike in around 2009/2010 Afghanistan did rise greatly in frequency of use. But even in the news-only Leipzig corpora it never beat Frankreich (as it does it the Routledge list). Even if it did it would seem bizarre for a frequency dictionary to be based off a corpus so subject to short term spikes. Dec 3, 2017 at 13:13
  • @GeorgeHawkins: Christian Geiselmann said it best: "First, perhaps, we should know what this strange list defines as "proper nouns". Then, we should know what text corpus that list is based on." A lot depends on how you define the universe of proper nouns, and how you define the source material.
    – Tom Au
    Dec 3, 2017 at 14:03
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    I didn't think the definition of proper nouns was particularly open to interpretation or that the words in the Routledge list diverged from the common understanding of the term. This Routledge frequency dictionary says it is based off the Leipzig/BYU Corpus of Contemporary German - you can find more details, that I've put together, here. Dec 3, 2017 at 18:40

A bit of search reveals that this Frequency Dictionary was published in 2005.The high ranking of "Afghanistan" is not surprising in a book of that time.

  • I downloaded the Leipzig news-only corpora for 2004 and 2005. And even these news focused corpora rank Frankreich far higher than Afghanistan for both years. Interestingly Irak ranks higher in frequency as well for both years. I'm not disputing that Afghanistan has risen significantly in news worthiness at times but I do doubt that it crops up more often, given trade, EU politics, closeness etc. than countries like Frankreich in a news setting let alone something claiming to be a corpus of contemporary German suitable as a study aid. Dec 3, 2017 at 12:13

I absolutely can imagine that "Afghanistan" was this important. It has a long sad history and is a symbol for a lot of conflicts in the world. Please note that even the Russians have a long history with it. So for us Germans it was and probably still is a hot topic when you want to discuss topics like "First world against third world", "Christian vs. Islam", "Military help vs. Humanity help", "Democracy vs. Autocratic" and so and so on. Nowadays the focus is fading to Syria or Iraq or whatever country might be in the news but still Afghanistan was the first bigger country which excited many people and provoked all the rising questions of nowadays conflicts.


Without having access to your splendid source of information, I turned to the Duden and the following nouns are the most common (descending):











Wikipedia maintains another list of most common words in german, but not only nouns.

Finally, the Institut für Deutsche Sprache also maintains several lists including a frequency list.

As none of these lists contain Afghanistan in the top spots, it is safe to assume, that it is not really in the top spot. This would coincide my observation of german news, that this country is not that present in the collective conscience. It was however, in the past, as Germany used to have troops stationed in the hindu kush (2001-2014), but they returned.

I'm aware, that the question is about proper names, the list in the last link includes proper names, analysis is left as an exercise to the OP.

Uni Leipzig also allows the download of the corpora by year from 1995 to 2015. It also categorizes by news, web and wikipedia. With a little work you can look for Afghanistan there. The linked pages also explains more about the format of the files and the origin of the corpus.

  • 6
    The question was about PROPER nouns.
    – fdb
    Dec 1, 2017 at 13:11
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    Thanks for the pointer to the frequency list from the Institut für Deutsche Sprache. I did as you suggested and picked out the proper nouns - the top 10 are Deutschland, Berlin, SPD, CDU, Peter, USA, Michael, München, Thomas and Bad - so quite a different list to the one shown in my question. Dec 1, 2017 at 19:07
  • And thanks for the pointer to the Leipzig corpora that I failed to find earlier. I downloaded the "mixed typical" 2011 corpus and looked at it - unfortunately they don't mark proper nouns. But if I pick out just country names I see that Afghanistan comes way behind Deutschland, China, Frankreich and more. So the Routledge corpus, whatever it may be, seems quite different to this broad Leipzig one. Dec 1, 2017 at 19:52
  • You're welcome! Would you consider accepting the answer?
    – mike
    Dec 2, 2017 at 17:00
  • @mike - the other two answers are just opinions while this includes useful links to corpora. However I think fdb's remark is fair - it would be a better answer if it didn't lead with a list of common nouns. I tried looking for the Dudenkorpus but failed to get anything more detailed. I guess your list came from the Sprachratgeber list on the Duden site (and unfortunately this list isn't long enough to allow one to pick out any proper nouns). Dec 3, 2017 at 12:54

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