The letter e has had a prolific recent surge in English as a combing form—a building block for new words—meaning “electronic” or, more broadly, “internet” or “online.” The obvious model word of this type is e-mail, which was first used in the early 1980s, but the rise of the internet has caused a flock of them to arrive in the language. Some are already entered in our dictionary, like e-book, e-commerce, e-reader, e-cigarette, e-tail, e-waste and e-zine.
There are plenty more, of course, and no one is surprised to see the e- appended to a noun these days. Especially as various businesses have moved online, we have seen a proliferation of these words:
What is less common is seeing the e- prefix appended to a verb; e-cyle (“to reuse or recycle (electronic equipment or components) especially for the purpose of reducing waste and pollution”) is the first to be entered in one of our dictionaries, and is currently in our online Unabridged.
E-meet has been used informally at least as far back as 1991, when the phrase “Glad to e-meet you” was used in the online discussion group “rec.equestrian.” This is one of the two main uses of the term that we see today, meaning “to meet (a person) for the first time via e-mail or online.” It is also used for virtual meetings and gatherings, “to participate in an online meeting”:
Docs use e-mail to e-meet with Patients
—Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), 5 June 2000
It kicks off with interactive exercises to foster idea generation and teamwork; then, using the latest technologies, teams e-meet every week.
—Elaine McArdle, Harvard Law Today, 5 October 2015
Naturally, we’ll be watching e-meeting and its variants as well:
My biggest problem with emeetings is speakers who have very little way of knowing if they are boring their audience to tears. Of course, by "their audience," I mean me.
—Michelle Manafy, EContent, 1 January 2003
As these terms are used more frequently outside of private communication in widely read print and online journals, they will be added to the dictionary in due course, contributing to an ever-growing list of words beginning with e-.
Not a bad new development for the most common letter in the alphabet.
Words We're Watching talks about words we are increasingly seeing in use but that have not yet met our criteria for entry.