It’s that time of year again, when the folks at Merriam-Webster evaluate current word usage and trends to determine which words to add and change in the dictionary.
If you thought the words and usages you learned in third grade were set in stone, you were wrong. English is a living language, and like most years, there will be plenty of debate about the worthiness of some choices made by the wordsmiths who determine what is and isn’t a word.
Let’s start with a rundown of some of the new words.
Buzzy: causing or characterized by a lot of speculative or excited talk or attention (that is, generating buzz).
Gig Economy: (coined in 2009) economic activity that involves the use of temporary or freelance workers to perform jobs typically in the service sector.
Gender nonconforming: exhibiting behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits that do not correspond with the traits typically associated with one’s sex.
Top surgery: a type of gender confirmation surgery in which a person’s breasts are removed or augmented to match their gender identity.
Bottom surgery: a type of gender confirmation surgery in which a person’s genitalia are altered to match their gender identity.
Screen time: This first referred to the amount of time someone appeared in front of a camera in a movie (a use dating back to the golden age of Hollywood) and now referring to time spent in front of a screen.
Go-cup: a plastic or paper cup used especially for taking a beverage off the premises of a bar, restaurant, etc.
Page view: an instance of a user viewing an individual page on a website.
Next, let’s take a look at some words that have had their meanings changed or that have additional meanings.
Snowflake: Now used to mean both “someone regarded or treated as unique or special” and “someone who is overly sensitive.”
Purple: Extending the blending of red and blue to the metaphorical level, purple can now refer to geographical areas where voters are split between Democrats and Republicans.
Peak: Metaphorically extended to mean “being at the height of popularity, use, or attention,” as in “peak television” (or maybe “peak word nerd”).
Goldilocks: Even a fairy tale can become a metaphor, and this new colorful definition, referring to the character whose preferred porridge is neither too hot nor too cold, has inspired astronomers to use it to describe “an area of planetary orbit in which temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to support life.”
These are just some of the more notable changes to the dictionary. Merriam-Webster added more than 640 new words in this update. The last update was in September 2018.