The latest update to Dictionary.com sees the addition of over 300 new words and definitions, with more than 1,700 entries updated.
The update focuses on developments in political news, pop culture and gender identity. Lexicographers study billions of pieces of data in order to get an idea of what people search for on Dictionary.com, and understand how they use language.
Political and popular culture terms popular
In such an important political year in the U.S. it is not surprising to see many political words as a focus of searches. There are also plenty of additions that have come from headlines from around the world, including Daesh, intersectionality, warmist, woke and Zika virus.
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“Many of the new word additions are tied to larger cultural conversations, from current political events to slang,” said Liz McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com. “Whether it’s the latest health crisis or a new abbreviated word, these definitions reflect the evolving curiosity of our user base and demonstrate the extent to which consumers turn to Dictionary.com to keep pace with the latest news and popular vernacular.”
Some of the most widely used new words came about from popular culture, and the rise of dating apps such as Tinder. Ghosting refers to “the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship.” With the possibility of connecting with hundreds of potential matches comes more opportunities to ditch partners in favor of other options, leading to the appearance of a new word to describe the phenomenon.
Additions reflect important discussions
Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade led to an explosion in popularity of a word that was previously limited to academia. Intersectionality refers to “the theory that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual.”
Another addition from popular culture is Pokémon, “a media franchise including video games, animated television series, movies, card games, etc. that depict a fictional class of pet monsters and their trainers.” In recent weeks the internet has gone crazy for the release of augmented reality smartphone game Pokemon Go, reviving interest in a franchise that was a favorite of schoolchildren in the 1990s.
Gender politics makes its mark in the form of misgender, which is “to refer to or address (a person, especially one who is transgender) with a pronoun, noun, or adjective that inaccurately represents the person’s gender or gender identity.” Controversy over the way we refer to transgender people led to greater interest in the issue, and subsequently the language which surrounds it.
Other terms that are relevant to gender politics include hijra, misgender, panromantic, and ze. Each of these terms was added to Dictionary.com after large numbers of users searched for them.
Civil rights, fashion and health make an appearance
With the ongoing outrage over police killings of black men in the United States, the issue of civil rights has shot to prominence once again. This article does not intend to set out a position on the issue, but instead inform the reader as to a word that has surged in popularity in debates on the subject. Woke refers to someone who is “actively aware of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights.”
The Zika virus dominated the headlines for weeks this year, with people worrying about whether they could become infected by the mosquito-borne virus which has been linked to birth defects. Dictionary.com refers to the Zika virus as “a chiefly mosquito-borne virus of the genus Flavivirus that causes Zika, a mild illness.”
Fashion is also a steady source of new words, and recent additions include athleisure, lumbersexual and mom jeans. Athleisure refers to “a style of clothing inspired by athletic apparel but also worn as casual, everyday wear,” while a lumbersexual is “a man whose style of dress and appearance is reminiscent of the ruggedly masculine stereotype of the lumberjack.”
If you’re reading this at lunch time, you might be eating “al desko”
Stressed office workers will no doubt appreciate the bittersweet humor of eating “al desko,” that is to say at your desk. Taken from the Italian “al fresco,” meaning in the open air, this slice of dark humor is likely to resonate with many readers.
For those that work in the media, there is one particular term that you will hope is never used to refer to you. A “presstitute” refers to “a journalist or media source whose news coverage is considered to be inappropriately influenced by business interests, political motives, etc.”
Here’s hoping that you have appreciated the impartiality of this report!