Did you know that every year, the Oxford English Dictionary, which bills itself as “The definitive record of the English language,” publishes a list of new words that are added to the dictionary?
This week we decided to do a little research and investigate the words that made it into the dictionary this year, and the process used to determine what new words make the cut in the English language.
There are actually 13 ways that a new word can be created. They are through derivation, back-formation, compounding, repurposing, conversion, eponyms, abbreviations, loanwords, onomatopoeia, reduplication, nonce words, error and finally portmanteaus, or as the Guardian called them, “compounding with a twist.” So, what are these methods, actually?
How a new word can be created
Derivation comes from adding a prefix or suffix to an existing word. Back-formation is just the opposite, when a prefix or suffix becomes unnecessary. Compounding is when two words become commonly used together. Repurposing is actually when a word gains a completely new meaning – think computer mouse as opposed to an actual mouse! Conversion is when a word goes from being in one word class to another.
So, going from a noun to an adjective, for example. Eponyms are words named after a person or a place. Of course, abbreviations are just the shortening of words or phrases, like “selfie” is now a representation of taking a photo of oneself. Loanwords are words that are adopted from other languages! English actually has a lot of loanwords – English speakers steal words all the time. Onomatopoeia, in addition to being nearly impossible to spell, means when an actual sound is described by a word. Reduplication is the repetition of a word or sound.
Nonce words are words that are completely invented by human imagination, like “bling”. And rounding out the list, we have simple errors, which believe it or not to make their way into the English dictionary, and portmanteaus (itself a word borrowed from French!) which are like compound words but with one of the words shortened, a good example is “sitcom.”
So, what are some of the new additions to the English language this year? The Oxford English Dictionary published a new word list In January of this year, and it had all the new word entries that the dictionary added following trends in 2017. The list of new word entries actually includes new words, new sub-entries, and new senses of words, so even when a word itself isn’t new but takes on a new meaning, the dictionary is updated and a new word is technically created.
New words added to the dictionary this year:
- Bougie (Adj.): Short for bourgeois, the term pretty much means snobby, or with a gentrified air. Some would say hipsters would be considered bougie.
- Fintech (N.): Short for financial technology, this is the definition of products and companies that employ new technologies in the banking and finance industries. Fintech companies make up a lot of startups these days, especially with the introduction of many new cryptocurrencies. What new tech words will we see next year?
- Fave (N.): Short for favorite, this word has been around in English for quite a while. Think back to the 1990’s when Clueless was released – the word was already popular, and was actually first coined in the 1930’s!
- Hangry (Adj.): What do you get when you’re getting angry due to a drop of blood sugar and increased hunger?? HANGRY! This word is one of our favorites, and is definitely a good addition to the dictionary.
- Zoodle (N.): As a part of the health fad crazes that we saw this year, zoodles hit the market, with lots of products for creating these noodles made out of thin strips of zucchini.
Those are just a few of the over 800 new words that were added to the English language this year. Did you know that the language grows this much every year? What are your predictions for new words next year? We are always studying the way language is evolving to ensure we provide our clients with the most relevant communication materials available!