455 New Words and Definitions Added to Merriam-Webster

Update includes dad bod, Oobleck, fluffernutter, and vaccine passport

Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield, MA, Oct. 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today Merriam-Webster announced the addition of 455 new words and meanings to its iconic dictionary. All have recently met the dictionary’s entry criteria—some, such as vaccine passport, because of new prominence, and others, like dad bod, because they’ve demonstrated staying power. As always, these new additions offer a window into how the English language is changing and expanding.

Highlighting the connection between technology and daily life, digital nomad refers to someone who performs their occupation entirely over the Internet while traveling. The threats of technology are also represented: zero-day describes a vulnerability that is discovered and exploited by cybercriminals before it is fixed, and bit rot refers to “the tendency for digital information to degrade or become unusable over time.” From business and finance comes the term blank check company (also known as a SPAC,  or  special purpose acquisition company), which is “a corporate shell set up by investors for the sole purpose of raising money through an initial public offering to acquire another business yet to be determined.”

“We are all encountering changes in work, public policy, and healthcare, as well as how we communicate online. It’s not surprising that these changes are reflected in the dictionary,” says Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster Editor at Large.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape our lives and our language, and this update includes a new medical sense of breakthrough, defined as “infection occurring in someone who is fully vaccinated against an infectious agent”; vaccine passport, a document offering proof of vaccination; and long COVID, which refers to symptoms persisting for an extended period of time following an initial recovery from COVID-19.  Fourth trimester, another new medical addition, is the three month period in which a mother typically recovers from childbirth and adjusts to caring for her infant. Another parenting-related term, dad bod—“a physique regarded as typical of an average father, especially one that is slightly overweight and not extremely muscular”—now lounges comfortably in the dictionary. 

Social media has popularized amirite, informally used in writing for "am I right," and the abbreviation TBH, short for “to be honest.” Deplatform has also found a place in the dictionary, where it’s defined as “to prevent from having or providing a platform to communicate.”

New food-related words include the whimsically named fluffernutter, a much-beloved sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow crème, and the increasingly popular air fryer, an appliance used for quick cooking. Ghost kitchen is defined as “a commercial cooking facility used for the preparation of food consumed off the premises.” 

Other notable additions include Oobleck, a goopy substance that kids love to experiment with (its name was inspired by a Dr. Suess book); vote-a-rama, a legislative event involving an unusually large number of debates and votes that happen in one day; the related pair whataboutism and whataboutery (when one responds to an accusation by accusing the attacker of something worse);  and an informal new use of one of the language’s most common words: the word because—because language.

See a larger selection of new words added—and their definitions—here.

More on How a Word Gets Into the Dictionary, plus an Infographic


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455 New Words and Definitions Added to Merriam-Webster

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