FARGO — Last year many pop culture stars, including Last Week's Tonight's John Oliver, used a slang term that first emerged on the internet to describe 2016: Dumpster fire. Words and phrases like this are constantly being created through culture icons, fiery tweet storms and shareable social videos.
In 2017, there is no shortage of new English words emerging from television, movies and our dynamic digital world. (In February alone the Merriam-Webster dictionary added more than 1,000 new words.)
The English language continues to grow, as each new word or phrase becomes more widespread before achieving admittance into an authoritative and renowned type of dictionary like the American Heritage, Merriam-Webster or the Oxford English collections.
First emerging in the early 1660s, dictionaries were created to define the English language, as it struggled to separate itself from its old English, Latin and Germanic roots.
According to John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the first English dictionary was written by Robert Cawdrey, a schoolmaster and former Church of England clergyman, in 1604.
More than 200 years later, Noah Webster published the first truly American English dictionary in 1806, according Merriam-webster.com. Today there are variety of "general-purpose" dictionaries — including the American Heritage which was published in 1969 and edited by William Morris — according to Britannica.com.
General purpose dictionaries are bolstered each year as editors mark new words discovered in books, newspapers, magazines and websites. (This process is called "reading and marking" according to Wonderopolis.org.)
After the word or phrase has been marked, it is entered into a database as a citation with its definition, context and bibliographic information.
Once the word or a phrase is a citation, it is a contestant to be added to the dictionary; having many citations does not guarantee admittance. New words require multiple citations from different sources before it will be added to any dictionary.
In the year of "covfefe," (a misspelled tweet by the POTUS which turned into a conspiracy) dictionary editors had "extras" (the new usage of this word refers to when someone or something isn't necessary) to consider.
Check out this list of some pop culture words that became card-carrying members of the English language this year.
Additions to the American Heritage Dictionary
Our constantly-connected culture often discovers new ways to shorten phrases into spoken nouns and assign new meanings to old words.
Steve Kleinedler, executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary, highlighted some of the new additions on WBUR.org.
Shorthand for "greatest of all time," GOAT is most often used in sports terminology, but rapper LL Cool J's eighth studio album donned "GOAT" in September 2000.
A relatively new term that emerged in 2005, a truther is a person who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy. (Visit Awake.dating, a conspiracy theory dating site for "Truthers" only.)
Once just a naturally-occurring piece of precipitation, in 2017 "snowflake" is a derogatory term to describe a person who is considered overly sensitive or easily offended, especially as a result of believing himself or herself to be unique or special. In this use, "snowflake" is often found on Twitter.
Once a mythical horned horse, a "unicorn" is now a marketing term used by digital-savvy startups and creative directors. A "unicorn" is something that is greatly desired but difficult or impossible to find. It also can be synonymous with a startup company valued at $1 billion and up.
Words added to Merriam-Webster
Merriam-Webster announces new additions monthly and allows users to make citations here.
Check out just four words that crossed the final finish line to make it into the well-respected collection.
Used as a nickname, SCOTUS refers to the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States. Merriam-Webster reports first use dating back to 1879, but the term has become popular recently due to breaking news reporting on social media.
Akin to SCOTUS, the First Lady of the United States is abbreviated to FLOTUS and used as a nickname. FLOTUS first gained popularity in 1983.
Defined as a favorite weekend pastime, binge-watch describes watching many episodes of a TV series in rapid succession.
The verb "ghost" — or as it more commonly referred to as "ghosted" — refers to a person abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.
4 words added to Oxford-English
Unlike the other dictionaries, the prestigious OED is updated four times a year (March, June, September and December).
During the last two rounds, OED editors approved entries like "drunk text," and "cat lady" according to article on Time.com. Here are some others.
Sometimes abbreviated to "fitspo," this term is used to refer to a person or thing that serves as motivation for someone to sustain or improve health and fitness.
Squad goals (noun)
Used in reference to a person or thing seen as a model to aspire to or emulate, especially with one's friends (often as a hashtag in social media).
Social justice warriors encourage each other to "Stay woke," a term used to describe the ability to discern injustice in society, especially racism.
Expressing great pleasure or excitement. Millennials have popularized this word with the phrase "Yas, queen."
Word(s) of the Year
Different dictionaries annually select one "Word of the Year" based on the statistics of searches. This month, Merriam-Webster announced "feminism" as its Word of the Year.
Lexicographer Peter Sokolowski explains that feminism increased in popularity due to a prominence in news events like the Women's March in late January and after an interview with the FLOTUS when she admitted to not knowing what the word actually meant.
Further search spikes fueled by the TV series "The Handmaid's Tale" and feature film "Wonder Woman" ultimately pushed Merriam-Webster to select his word.
(See Sokolowski's full explaination about how they choose their word of the year at Merriam-webster.com/videos/2017-word-of-the-year-behind-the-scenes.)
On Dec. 14, Oxford Dictionaries announced its international Word of the Year as "youthquake" — a termed defined as a "significant cultural, political or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people."
Youthquake, a word that has origins dating back to the 1960s, surpassed a shortlist of other politically charged words such as "Antifa," "broflake," "kompromat," "white fragility" and "Milkshake Duck."
Other words of the year include "complicit" from Dictionary.com, while the Cambridge Dictionary anointed "populism."