Earlier this week, Merriam-Webster Dictionaries added 850 new words and definitions to its online dictionary. Some are recent coinages that were obvious candidates for inclusion, some are drawn from slang and intentional wordplay, and some are words you might be surprised didn’t already appear in the dictionary.
And if news of dictionary updates gets your heart a-pumping, then the first new addition you’ll want to know about — the one that describes you — is wordie.
You’ll recognize a number of new additions from the digital arena from their now daily inclusion in financial and international news: cryptocurrency (currency that exists only digitally), Bitcoin (the first successful cryptocurrency), initial coin offering (the first release of a new cryptocurrency), and blockchain (which is, um . . . here’s its entry ) have all found homes in the dictionary.
Portmanteau words made a good showing in the new additions. A handful are names of new canine cross-breeds: schnoodle (schnauzer + poodle), Yorkie-poo (Yorkie + poodle), and chiweenie (chihuahua + dachshund, aka “weiner dog”). But dogs don’t get all the portmanteaux: Also added are glamping (glamourous + camping) and mansplain (man + explain), which I’m sure will see a slew of ironic redefinings in the page’s comments section.
The culinary world is always offering up a panoply of new terms, and this round of additions is no different. Added this week are harissa (a spicy paste from North Africa), kabocha (a Japanese pumpkin), kombucha (a bubbly, fermented tea), and tzatziki (the delicious Greek yogurt, cucumber, and garlic sauce), which I for one was surprised to discover hadn’t been in the dictionary all along.
Of all the new additions, though, the entry making the biggest splash is embiggen. According to Mental Floss, C.A. Ward offered the word embiggen in 1884 particularly to make a point about ugly neologisms, but the word didn’t find much meaningful use until it appeared on The Simpsons as the fictional city of Springfield’s town motto: “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” These days, you can find the phrase “click to embiggen” all around the internet below thumbnail images.
Some people get very upset when they see new words added to the dictionary, especially what they see as made-up words (like embiggen), believing that lexicographers are forcing fad words into our collective vocabulary. (It should be remembered that all words were once made-up words.) But as Merriam-Webster’s editors explain probably more often than they really want to, the dictionary doesn’t create words and their uses; it records them. “If you’re likely to encounter a word in the wild,” the editors write, “whether in the news, a restaurant menu, a tech update, or a Twitter meme, that word belongs in the dictionary.”
But just because a word appears in the dictionary doesn’t mean that you have to use it, or even like it.
Whether to accept these new additions as legal Scrabble plays, though, is between you and your opponent.