Words at Play

We Added New Words to the Dictionary for September 2019

More than 530 new words, from 'deep state' to 'dad joke'

New words are a happy fact of life for a living language, and taking careful stock of the words that we use is an important part of the work of dictionary editors. Words can come and go in a language, but those that show staying power and increasing use need to be recorded and described. In other words: they need definitions.

So here they are. In our latest batch of updates, which includes 533 new words and new meanings added to the dictionary (not to mention more than 4000 other revisions to definitions, etymologies, pronunciations, and dates of first known use), we see a cross-section of newly-established vocabulary ranging from the serious to the playful, from the technical to the informal—with a bit of everything in between.

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Among the new additions: 'free solo,' 'escape room,' 'red flag law,' 'fatberg,' 'autogenic training,' and the nonbinary pronoun 'they.'

New Words from Politics and Law

  • Deep state: an alleged secret governmental network operating extralegally. It may feel as though the term has been around since the time when men wore fedoras in Washington, but current evidence dates it only to the dawn of the current century.
  • Red flag law: a law allowing courts to prevent people who show signs of being a danger to themselves or others from having access to firearms. It has only been in use since 2015, and its synonym, extreme risk law, dates to 2017.

New Abbreviations and Portmanteaus

Playfulness is always a part of language, and some of the informal words in this batch include inventive truncations, recombinations, and portmanteaus.

  • Vacay: a shortening of vacation.
  • Sesh: a shortening of session.
  • Inspo: a shortening of inspiration.
  • Fabulosity: fabulous quality, state, or nature.
  • Fatberg: a large mass of fat and solid waste that collects in a sewer system (a portmanteau of fat and iceberg).
  • Solopreneur: a solo entrepreneur.

New Words from Games and Sports

  • Pickleball: a newly popular court sport played with short-handled paddles and a perforated plastic ball (and an entry with a championship-level etymology).
  • Escape room: a game in which participants confined to a room or other enclosed setting are given a set amount of time to find a way to escape.
  • Free solo: a climb in which a rock climber uses no artificial aids for support and has no rope or other safety equipment for protection in case of a fall.

New Words About Race and Identity

On a more serious note, several new entries are for words that address the complex ways we view ourselves and others and how we all fit in.

  • They: expanded to include this sense: “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” It's an expansion of a use that is sometimes called the “singular they” (and one that has a long history in English). When a reflexive pronoun corresponding to singular use of they is needed, themself is seeing increasing use.
  • Inclusive: A new sense has been added: “allowing and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability).”
  • Colorism: prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin.

New Words from Pop Culture

  • Bechdel test: refers to a set of criteria used to evaluate a movie or other work of fiction on the basis of its inclusion and representation of female characters.
  • Stinger: the name for short scene that appears during or after the closing credits of a movie.
  • Coulrophobia: meaning “abnormal fear of clowns.” Although Hollywood releases and dictionary updates are not coordinated, even for publicity purposes, this entry hits your screens within weeks of the premieres of both It Chapter Two and Joker.

New Words from Psychology

New Words from Business and Finance

  • Pain point: a persistent or recurring problem (as with a product or service) that frequently inconveniences or annoys customers.
  • Haircut: a new sense was added meaning “a reduction in the value of an asset.”

New Words from Linguistics

Language buffs will appreciate a new group of words from the field of linguistics.

  • Rhotic: in phonetics, a rhotic dialect is one in which an /r/ sound is retained in words like hard and car.
  • Non-rhotic: A dialect in which no /r/ sound is heard in such words.
  • Rhoticity: nothing to do with rotisserie and everything to do with a noun that points to some important differences between dialects.

Should this list leave you hungry for more words, keep this in mind: if you eat the dictionary, you may get thesaurus throat you’ve ever had. (Oh, we now have an entry for dad joke, too.)

For the previous batch of new words, check out our April 2019 additions.



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