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WHAT’S in the Dictionary?

All languages change and grow over time. This is obvious when we look at English from several hundred years ago; if someone walked around talking like they walked out of a Shakespearian play all the time, it would likely get some odd looks. It’s pretty surprising to look at the dictionary today and compare it to that of even 50 years ago – there are an amazing number of new words as well as lots that have been taken out over the last 5 decades.

Dictionaries are designed to be descriptive instead of prescriptive (that is, they show the way language is truly being used instead of how someone thinks it ought to be used). This means that a dictionary will be continuously updated to reflect the changes in our language. In July 2021, Dictionary.com added 231 new entries, 65 new definitions in existing entries, and 925 revised definitions.

Bear in mind that not all dictionary entries are single words. Often, they are multi word terms that are used together as a single idea, such as side hustle (a job or occupation that brings in extra money beyond one’s regular job and main source of income) and ghost kitchen (a commercial facility that prepares and cooks restaurant-style food for delivery directly to customers or to one or more dine-in restaurants).

Many of the new and updated entries have origins in current events, such as COVID-19, racial Justice, and technical innovations, but there are also a number of entries derived from slang terms. New words and updates are typically included after the lexicographers (this is a fancy word for someone who writes, edits, or compiles a dictionary) determine that it has sustained, widespread use in the language.

So what are some of the words that have recently been added? Here are a few of the new (or updated) entries:

  • yeet – an exclamation of excitement, approval, surprise, or all-around energy, often as issued when doing a dance move or throwing something
  • abandonware – old or outdated software for which the publisher has discontinued updates, technical support, or distribution
  • long haul – a relatively long period of time, especially a period of considerable effort or difficulty; relating to or being a condition characterized by symptoms or health problems that linger or first appear after supposed recovery from an associated acute illness or active infection
  • oof – an exclamation used to sympathize with someone else’s pain or dismay, or to express one’s own
  • synchronous – (especially in education) occurring in real time, as with participants logged in at an appointed time for a live lecture or discussion:
  • asynchronous – (especially in education) occurring or able to be completed independently according to a person’s own self-paced schedule or within a broad window of time, but not coordinated to be completed in real time with another participant
  • y’all (formerly considered a variant form of you-all, but now an entry of its own) – you (used in direct address usually to two or more people, or to one person who represents a family, organization, etc.):

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