Just when we think we’ve got a handle on the English language, Dictionary.com comes along and legitimizes terms like “shower orange” and “mountweazel.”
As part of its continuing (and Sisyphean) efforts to keep up with today’s vernacular, Dictionary.com has officially added 566 new terms to the site, adopting words and phrases made popular thanks to technology, personal identity, climate change and, of course, the kids on social media.
The site also adopted hundreds of new definitions for existing words, while revising the definitions of thousands of others.
“Not only do we have to strive our best to keep up with language at the inexorable, unceasing pace of change in the form of adding new words, but we also have to update old definitions that are out of date or add new senses of existing words,” John Kelly, the vice president of editorial at Dictionary.com, explains in a statement shared with Nexstar. “On top of that, you can think of an online dictionary as a gigantic, complicated index — adding or changing any one word or part of the definition often results in making system-wide changes.”
There’s no official “threshold” that new words are required to meet before being added to the online dictionary, but Kelly said each new entry has to have “relatively” widespread usage and an agreed-upon meaning, among other qualities.
Technology, Kelly said, opened the floodgates for a significant number of these new words over the last year. Many new entries emerged specifically alongside the rise in artificial intelligence programs, such as the terms “generative AI” (referring to AI programs that users can guide with prompts), “chatbot” (a conversational AI “bot” that responds to written questions or text messages in place of an actual human) and “hallucinate” (which means that an AI program has produced false results “contrary to the intent of the user,” according to the site).
But other, perhaps sillier words for language nerds are plentiful in the latest update, too. Kelly highlighted several, including: “mountweazel,” which refers to a fake entry deliberately included within reference books, to try to catch plagiarists or competing publishing companies who attempt to pass off the information as common knowledge; “jawn,” a slang word essentially meaning “thing,” popularized in Philadelphia, and “snite,” a Britishism used to describe the practice of wiping snot from one’s nose, often with one’s own fingers or thumb.
And though it feels somewhat futile these days, Dictionary.com attempts to keep up with the kids by adopting several slang terms that were widely used on social media over the past year, including “nepo baby” (a celebrity who only became famous after their parent had achieved fame and is largely thought to have benefited from nepotism) and “shower orange” (a term coined to describe an orange eaten in the shower — a practice promoted as part of a viral trend).
In addition to its new entries and definitions (which can be found here), Dictionary.com also announced the removal of the pronouns “his” and “hers” from all its entries, sometimes in favor of “they.” It’s a move that eliminates “binary-gendered” language but also reflects how people actually talk, according to Dictionary.com.
“We document and describe English’s ever-evolving vocabulary rigorously, objectively, accessibly, and helpfully for our broad array of users,” Kelly told Nexstar. “And that in so doing, we make sure we are capturing real and relevant language at the pace of change.”