Look out moms: Some of your child's internet slang words have just made it into the dictionary — Dictionary.com, that is.
The site said it's updating the dictionary more frequently than ever, and it's just added 566 new words to its lexicon, along with 2,256 revised definitions and 348 new definitions to represent the "always-evolving nature of English."
It's for the nepo baby you keep reading about, the generative AI you keep worrying about and the coffee nap you keep dreaming about.
But don't worry: There are some new words for those who aren't extremely online, too.
New words on Dictionary.com
The 566 new words range from being rooted in pop culture and slang to science and health, from artificial intelligence to identity and relationships.
Many of the new terms come from social media or headlines that have people talking.
Take nepo baby, which is a celebrity whose parent is also famous and typically has industry connections essential to the "baby's" success. New York Magazine dedicated a cover story to the term, featuring the faces of nepo babies like Dakota Johnson, Jack Quaid, Lily-Rose Depp and more on actual baby bodies.
There's also the new addition NIL. This abbreviation stands for name, image and likeness in reference to collegiate athletes earning money from sponsorships or merchandise due to their identity. The NCAA is facing multiple lawsuits involving the way colleges profit off athletes' NIL without the athlete themselves receiving revenue.
Sportswashing is also now in the dictionary's lexicon. This refers to the practice of rehabilitating the bad reputation of a person, company, nation, etc. or mitigating negative press coverage with sports events, or the appeal to unify conflicting groups by celebrating fans' shared love of a game. Many have accused Saudi Arabia of trying to erase its alleged human rights violations by venturing into the PGA Tour and investing into top soccer stars.
Then there's the obvious reasons for the additions of chatbot, which is a computer program designed to converse with users verbally or through written messages, and GPT, which stands for generative pre-trained transformer and is a type of machine learning algorithm using deep learning and a training database to generate new text responses to users. These refer to the year's explosion of artificial intelligence, particularly with the burst of ChatGPT.
Besides those big talkers, here are some other prominent words you may recognize, or words you might be interested in adding to your vocabulary.
- Blursday: A day not easily distinguished from other days, or the phenomenon of days running together.
- Greenwashing: An instance or practice of promoting or affiliating a brand, campaign, mission, etc., with environmentalism as a ploy to divert attention from policies and activities that are in fact anti-environmentalist.
- Sextortion: Criminal behavior in which a perpetrator illicitly obtains sexually compromising material, such as images, and then threatens to publish it or harm the victim in other ways unless further material or a sum of money is surrendered.
- Big Pharma: Pharmaceutical companies considered collectively, especially with reference to their political and commercial influence.
- Generative AI: Artificial intelligence that is designed to process prompts from users and respond with text, images, audio or other output that is modeled on a training data set.
- Biohacking: Strategic biological experimentation, especially upon oneself, using technology, drugs, hormones, diet, etc., with the goal of enhancing or augmenting performance, health, mood, or the like.
- Pessimize: To make less good, efficient, fast, functional, etc., especially in the context of computers or information technology. The opposite of optimize.
- Decision fatigue: Mental and emotional exhaustion resulting from excessive or relentless decision-making, especially the cumulative effect of small decisions that one makes throughout each day.
- Coffee nap: A short nap, usually 15-30 minutes, taken immediately after drinking a cup of coffee, the claimed benefit being that the energizing effect of caffeine may be bolstered by a sleeping body’s drop in adenosine levels.
- Stress eating: Emotional eating, especially in response to stress, tension, or anxiety.
- Intermittent fasting: A pattern of eating that involves regular short periods of fasting, such as by limiting food intake to a certain period of the day or to fewer meals on certain days of the week.
- Box braids: A hairstyle originating among Black people, in which the hair is parted into small squares or other shapes over the scalp and the hair from each section is woven into a braid.
- Polysexual: Noting or relating to a person who is sexually attracted to people of various genders, but not necessarily to people of all genders.
For the longer list of the new additions, click here.
A big change affecting the whole website
In the past, most examples on Dictionary.com would include binary-gendered phrases like "his" or "her" and "he" or "she." These appeared in hundreds of entries, but not anymore.
This most recent update includes a dictionary-wide change of removing these phrases, with lexicographers either replacing the pronouns with "their" or "they" or similar words, or just rewriting the definition to avoid using a pronoun at all.
For example, the old definition of folk singer was: A singer who specializes in folk songs, usually providing his or her own accompaniment on a guitar. Now, the revised definition says a folk singer usually provides their own accompaniment on a guitar. And the definition of volunteer was revised from "a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking" to "a person who voluntarily offers to perform a service or undertaking."
A lexicographer for the site said this change was made for both inclusivity and for usage.
On the inclusivity side, changing the pronouns to "they" is making the pronoun usage more generic and less formal, as most people use the term instead of saying "his or her" when speaking. And for the usage side, this change aligns the entries more to how people actually speak and write, making Dictionary.com more accessible and natural-sounding, the lexicographer wrote.
How do new words get added to the website?
Dictionary.com says its lexicon will always be a work in progress, never marked "complete."
And the site wants to make something clear: "A word doesn't become a 'real word' when it's added to the dictionary. It's actually the other way around: we add words to the dictionary because they're real — because they’re really used by real people in the real world."
The site's lexicographers typically wait until the word has met four criteria:
1. It has relatively widespread use.
2. It has a widely agreed-upon meaning.
3. It seems to have staying power, meaning it's likely to be used for a long time.
4. It will be useful for a general audience.
The dictionary prioritizes adding words people would likely encounter, and it rarely adds "new" words that haven't gained relatively widespread use.
So if you have a word you want to get in the dictionary, keep using it until it catches on, the site says. That's when the lexicographers "will surely take note."
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