Because language, amirite?: Merriam-Webster dictionary adds 455 new words and definitions

·3 min read
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and mobile website are displayed in Springfield, Mass., in 2016. The dictionary has added 455 new words and definitions, including 'TBH,' 'fluffernutter' and 'long COVID.' (Joanne K. Watson/Merriam-Webster/Getty Images - image credit)
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and mobile website are displayed in Springfield, Mass., in 2016. The dictionary has added 455 new words and definitions, including 'TBH,' 'fluffernutter' and 'long COVID.' (Joanne K. Watson/Merriam-Webster/Getty Images - image credit)

Word nerds FTW! Merriam-Webster has added 455 new words and definitions to the dictionary — including nods to online culture, food favourites and the pandemic — to reflect our ever-evolving language.

The update this month includes both new terms and new uses for existing terms "that have shown extensive and established use," the Massachusetts-based company says in a post on its website.

The world of online communication is notably represented, with the additions of "FTW" and "TBH" (abbreviations for "for the win" and "to be honest") and "amirite" (slang for the rhetorical "am I right") reflecting the shorthand vocabulary of texting and tweeting.

Even "because" gets an updated definition to take into account a new, informal usage where it replaces "by reason of" or "because of." Merriam-Webster says this is "often used in a humorous way to convey vagueness about the exact reasons for something" — as in, "the process works because science" or "they left because reasons."

Food-related additions

Some popular food items are also now Merriam-Webster official. Close to home for the dictionary, the U.S. Northeast staple "fluffernutter" — a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow crème — was deemed by editors to have attained enough reach beyond its regional origins to earn a place on the list.

The fluffernutter is so beloved in Massachusetts that there have been long-running efforts to name it the official state sandwich.

Two food terms borrowed from Spanish were also added: "horchata," the cold sweetened beverage made from ground rice or almonds and often flavoured with cinnamon; and "chicharron," a snack-sized piece of fried pork belly or skin.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Another inductee is "Goetta," which comes from German and is defined by Merriam-Webster as "meat (such as pork) mixed with oats, onions, and spices and fried in the form of a patty."

Terms related to food preparation were also added, including "air fryer" and "ghost kitchen." The latter — "a commercial cooking facility used for the preparation of food consumed off the premises" — is a concept that took off during the pandemic as restaurants shuttered due to government restrictions and more people turned to food delivery apps.

More coronavirus-related words

Once again, the pandemic loomed large in Merriam-Webster's update.

As the virus situation quickly evolved last year, the dictionary issued an unscheduled update in March 2020 that included terms like "COVID-19" and "contact tracing." Since then, each update has added new coronavirus-related terms and definitions.

"Long COVID" and "vaccine passport" are both included in this update, reflecting research and policy developments related to the disease. Meanwhile, the definition for "breakthrough" has been tweaked, reflecting the rise of its usage in referring to an infection occurring in someone who is fully vaccinated.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Also updated: the definition for "super-spreader," which originally referred to a highly contagious individual. Merriam-Webster says it can now also refer to any event or location where many people contract the same communicable disease.

On the less scientific end of things, the dictionary also added "dad bod," which it defines as "a physique regarded as typical of an average father; especially : one that is slightly overweight and not extremely muscular."

The term has been in wide circulation for years (indeed, Merriam-Webster notes its first known use as 2003), ranging from attempts to define it by media outlets such as GQ and Business Insider to discussions about a possible makeover for Barbie's Ken.

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