Dictionary.com‘s latest batch of updates just dropped, and they cover a wide range of timely social and cultural topics, including accessibility, homelessness, and the global climate crisis.
Announced on March 29, the website’s professionals (known as lexicographers) updated more than 2,400 entries, which include the 235 new entries, 72 new definitions in existing entries, and 1,024 revised definitions. The website says it wanted to address the ever-changing cultural spectrum of climate, social sciences, and health, as we encounter them online.
Dictionary.com adds new words reflecting the impact of social justice movements and COVID-19
Many of the terms address new ways communities use and have redefined traditional concepts. Notably, the database added the terms “unsheltered,” “unhoused,” and “houseless” to embody the changing language used by activists and communities. The entry for “unhoused,” for example, defines it as “being without a house to live in or lacking permanent housing” and directs users to both the updated terms and the traditional phrase, “homeless.” In the same vein, the website added commonly used words among social justice advocates or adjusted definitions to embody their current usage, like those for “trigger,” “problematic,” and “decolonize.“
The word “decolonize” got an updated definition to acknowledge its use in activist spaces.
The update includes new accessibility phrases, like “auto caption,” “live caption,” and “alt text,” common accessibility features that are on the way to becoming standard practice across social sites and personal profiles. “While some of these terms or the technologies they refer to have familiarity, specific features of each type can differ and overlap — and capturing these distinctions and similarities is one of the challenges of defining these words,” explained the website’s release.
Phrases like “vaxxer” and “anti-masker” are part of the pandemic-era vernacular.
As the climate conversation evolves, so does our language.
And our ongoing global climate crisis was also represented with the website’s addition of “climate emergency,” which it defines as “a crisis in which long-term change in the earth’s climate is having severe adverse effects on the environment, necessitating immediate and bold countermeasures.” It also acknowledged rising tech to address the crisis, like “EV” (electric vehicle), “HEV“ (hybrid electric vehicle), “PHEV” (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), “BEV” (battery electric vehicle), “charging station,” and “e-bike.“
Per usual, Dictionary.com included some nods to pop-culture moments over the last year, including “NFT,” “throuple,” “memeify,” and “ranked-choice voting” (brought back to our Twitter feeds thanks to the Academy Awards).
The website edited more than a thousand entries to reflect the changes in usage and social context, including the definitions for “boost,” which now acknowledges its use in campaigns for COVID-19 vaccinations, and “code-switching,” adjusted to include how individuals modify their own behavior to embody different social norms.
“From ‘Generation A’ to ‘zeitgeisty,’ our latest update to the dictionary shows just how wide, varied, and complex these changes can be. Our work at Dictionary.com isn’t just to capture these changes in language — it’s to help our users make sense of them and why they matter for their lives,” wrote John Kelly, senior director of editorial for Dictionary.com, in the update’s press release. “Because our world is constantly changing, our language is constantly changing.”
View the full list of terms and explanations for entry edits on Dictionary.com.