640 new words added to Merriam-Webster dictionary

FAN Editor

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary made 640 additions to its ever-expanding collection this April, including the widely-used phrases buzzy and EGOT.  EGOT, an acronym for the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards, refers to someone who has nabbed all four honors, while buzzy is defined as speculative or excited talk or attention.  

Quite a few of the words are so commonly used in pop culture, it seems surprising they haven’t been added to the dictionary yet. 

Also added to the lexicon: The millennial favorites stan, a very devoted fan; peak, now also defined as being at the height of popularity, use, or attention; and on-brand, to be consistent with an image or identity.

Many of the new words aren’t new at all, but are old words which have been adjusted to keep up with their new usage. Snowflake, for example was once only thought of when snow days were on the horizon, but has evolved to mean both “someone regarded or treated as unique or special” and “someone who is overly sensitive.” Purple, long taught in art class as the mix of red and blue, can now also signify geographical areas where voters are split between Democrats and Republicans.

Other added terms expand society’s changing definitions of gender, with gender non-conforming, or someone who exhibits “behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits that do not correspond with the traits typically associated with one’s sex,” making the list. Scientific terms also got a bump, with words like Bioabsorbable and Qubit added as well.

While it may seem that 640 additions is a lot, those who decide what words make the final cut have a tough task in front of them. The process includes the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company’s approximately two dozen lexicographers, Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, told the Associated Press.

“So many people use our website as their principal dictionary and we want it to be current,” Sokolowski told the AP. “We want to be as useful as possible.”

The team scans online editions of newspapers, academic journals, books and other forms of media until they are able to discern what Sokolowski terms “a critical mass” of usage that calls for the terms to be entered into the dictionary. First, the words are added to the online dictionary, then some are added to print updates of the company’s popular Collegiate Dictionary. 

This isn’t the first time new words garnered a buzzy reaction. Last fall, the dictionary added more than 840 new words, including GOAT, short for “Greatest of All Time.” The word has become synonymous with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s unparalleled success. It also added new abbreviations, like “marg” (short for margarita), “fave” (short for favorite) and “bougie” (short for bourgeois). 

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