New Words That Entered the Dictionary in 2018

Language has a huge impact on culture and affects the way we effectively communicate with each other. Language can also be trendy. After all, the slang that was common 30 or even 10 years ago isn’t exactly popular now. Words are often added to the dictionary after they have gained popularity. When a large section of the population understands the word and starts using it often, Merriam-Webster may decide to make it part of the dictionary. In 2018, several words made the cut. This was due to increased cultural awareness and creating words that accurately conveyed certain mindsets. According to language experts,” words are arbitrary symbols that have no meaning in themselves.” This means that it’s up to us to assign meanings to words. In 2018, society did a pretty impressive job of this.

How Are Words Added to the Dictionary?

In order for a word to be added to the dictionary, it usually starts as a witty quip that becomes a colloquialism. If the word is used long enough, it will become part of the way people in society communicate with each other. Once a large sector of the population understands the word, it is legitimized. This makes it a candidate for the dictionary.

Each year, new words and phrases are being created. New definitions are also added to words that already exist. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced in January 2018 that over 1,110 senses, words, and sub-entries were entered into the dictionary. By March 2018, over 700 new senses, words, and sub-entries were added, which brought the total number up to 2,000. The OED updates the dictionary each quarter.

There are more than 829,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary. These include senses and compounds. The OED consults with experts in a number of fields before deciding what to add to the dictionary. The word or phrase has to have been used for a reasonable amount of time and in several examples and scenarios.

Which Entries Topped the List?

One of the most popular entries for 2018 was “mansplain” or “mansplaining.” This describes a man trying to explain things, usually to a woman, in a condescending way. The term also explains the way that some men try to rationalize principles that are discriminatory toward women. Some people also use the term to describe when men try to explain a woman’s body or emotions to her. These terms were not in existence a decade ago. However, they perfectly sum up a sentiment many women have been trying to convey.

“Hangry” is another term that topped the dictionary entry list this year. It describes the combination between “hungry” and “angry” that people feel when they’ve gone too long without eating. This type of word is called a portmanteau—a mixture of two words that already exist. Some brands and companies even capitalized on the concept of the phrase. One example is the series of commercials from Snickers. The commercials depict people who act out of character until they get a Snickers to satisfy their hunger. The word “hangry” seems like a fairly new term. However, it was initially cited in an American Imago article in 1956. The American Imago is a psychoanalytical journal that was created to describe several types of purposeful and unintentional wordplay.

Existing Words with New Meaning

There were also a few words already part of the English language that took on a new meaning in 2018. “Snowflake” was one of those words.

In the 1980s, the word “snowflake” was a positive term. It’s been scientifically proven that each snowflake has a unique pattern. So, people used the word to describe someone who is one of a kind. The term was often used as an endearing description for children.

These days, however, the term “snowflake” has taken on more of a negative connotation. This is largely because the term has been used in a disparaging way on social media. The new definition of snowflake is someone who is offended easily and especially fragile. It can also be used to describe a person who feels that he/she is entitled to special treatment.

“Self” Words

Once the word “selfie” was entered into the dictionary in 2014, people have started attaching the “self” prefix to more phrases. This has become an accurate way to describe the feelings and practices that an individual has internally adopted. The word “selfy” has actually been around since the 17th century and originated in Scotland. It means selfish or self-centered, which is sometimes the sentiment attached to people who take too many pictures of themselves.

New “self” words that have been added to the dictionary include self-determinism, self-identified, and self-published.

Related terms include “me time.” While the term doesn’t have a selfish connotation the way that “selfy” does, it describes one taking the time to do desirable things. This could be considered selfish in some circles. However, “me time” is mainly used to describe a form of self-care (a term that also became more popular this year). Me time usually involves people relaxing by themselves or taking time to center their thoughts without fulfilling other’s expectations. The OED even asserts that me time “suggests a healthy form of psychological self-care.”

The Lighter Side of New Words

There are also a few words that have entered the dictionary due to their prevalence in pop culture. The OED added “Tom Swifty” to the dictionary. The popular term “swag” also got a new definition when rapper and mogul Jay-Z re-popularized it. Jay-Z has actually come up with five citations of the word.

A “Tom Swifty” is described as a “humorous sentence typically consisting of reported speech attributed to a speaker (frequently “Tom”), followed by an adverb which related punningly to what has been said.”

“Swag” defines someone who is bold and self-assured. The term is also used to describe someone with a lot of confidence or even a sense of superiority.

Other fun words that entered the dictionary in 2018 include “Jackie O.” This refers to someone with the effortless and appealing sense of style that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had, not to the woman herself.

Some existing words were also shortened. An example of this is “tomoz,” which is an informal way of saying “tomorrow.”

Phrases for certain processes became official words in 2018 as well. One popular phrase was “hippotherapy.” This is the use of horseback riding for rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment. Hippotherapy is also used to help people improve their strength, coordination, and balance.

Technological and Scientific Words

It’s clear that technology is a huge part of our world and is here to stay. There have been a few words added to the dictionary that describe some of the processes and pitfalls of technology. “Ransomware” describes “a type of malicious software designed to block access to applications or files on a computer system until a sum of money is paid.”

Deglobalization” is another term that made the list this year. It is “the process of making something less global and more regional in nature, focus, impact, etc.; esp. the reversal or decline of globalization, or its effects.”

Titanian” has also taken on a new definition this year. It means “of or situated on Titan, the largest of Saturn’s moons.”

Editing services, companies, and even some educational institutions are now incorporating these words into their cultures. It’s only a matter of time before more words become a part of the way we relate ideas and sentiments to each other.

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Thomas McCoy was born in Bethesda, Maryland and studied finance at the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington D.C. before heading to New York and a job as a forex trader on Wall Street. Successful enough to launch his own, online forex trading platform, Thomas has long had a keen interest in the places where the worlds of finance and technology meet. As a prolific blogger, Thomas considers himself an expert on cryptocurrencies, casino asset restructuring, and emerging technologies set to change the way people do business.