25 Brand-New Words Added to the Dictionary for 2019
Merriam-Webster added over 600 new words to the dictionary this year. You'll find old words with new meanings on the list too.
On a molecular level, snowflakes are all basically the same, even though you may think they’re each unique and special. Snowflake also has a few definitions beyond, “a flake or crystal of snow.” The term has become disparaging slang for both someone treated as precious and special or one who thinks they should be treated as such. Yes, snowflake is a grand insult. If you’re called this term, the user thinks you’re too sensitive or that you find yourself precious.
Gotta get those clicks! A page view is a compound term of the Internet age. Page view is an example of “lexicalization,” because it’s a phrase that now expresses a concept: “an instance of a user viewing an individual page or website.” Page views are crucial because they insinuate engagement with info that’s on a web page or site.
The gig economy means that work comes from freelance, part-time, or contract jobs or gigs. While a gig economy offers lots of flexibility for workers, it does not provide the stability and assured growth that secure, full-time positions used to do. Coined in 2019, Merriam-Webster offers that the gig economy uses temps or freelancers, “primarily in the service sector.”
Sure, that annoying fly in the room is buzzy, but there’s also the good kind of buzz. That’s the generated, cultural attention and interest in a movie, TV show, book, or really anything with mass market appeal before it hits the public.
Merriam-Webster defines this term, as “capable of being absorbed by living tissue.” That sounds like the plot of The Blob, but it actually refers to pretty innovative surgical techniques. Sutures, stents, and various other devices can be made of harmless, bioabsorbable materials that are far less invasive than metal pieces or previously-used methods.
If you like these new dictionary additions, check out these words from the first dictionary that no longer exist.
Do you work out? If so, you probably look swole. The term basically derives from swelling or swollen, but it’s a positive adjective used to describe top-notch or particularly aesthetic musculature. As in, Robert Pattinson as the new Batman is looking swole.
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Very few people have achieved peak EGOT—the ultimate threshold for performance accomplishment. Only 15 performers have reached it so far, and that list includes Audrey Hepburn, Rita Moreno, Whoopi Goldberg, and Mel Brooks. However, there are 40 performers on deck to become EGOT with just one more win. The term is an acronym using the first letters of the awards Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Once you win one of each, you’ve got an EGOT.
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People have always been gender non-conforming—that is, they have exhibited gender traits that subvert or redo what’s considered conventional and socially acceptable. The term was first used in 1991 but is now gaining mainstream understanding and use, especially since the language is increasingly employed, along with the term transgender, to accept and protect gender non-conforming people.
Peak was merely the tip of a mountain or a pointy end before it hit peak slang by making it into the Merriam-Webster. To be peak means to be at or beyond the totality of whatever is being described. Beyonce and Lady Gaga display peak diva daily, but you can also be peak gaming, peak stanning (see below if you don’t know what this means), or simply peak millennial. That’s when you’ve perfected your avocado jam dog treat recipe. Basically, it’s when you’ve reached the ultimate level. Apply as needed: peak unicorn, peak couch potato, peak whatever.
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Stans have been around as long as celebrities, but this term for an obsessive and over-the-top groupie just made it into the dictionary. Way back in 2000, Eminem (of rap fame) had a song about an extremely devoted fan, “Stan.” And the term was born. Merriam-Webster notes that it’s often used in a “disparaging” way, but that’s usually in the form of self-awareness about a star or franchise’s epic greatness and the known insanity (instanity?!) of adoring it. Consider the way Game of Thrones stans still obsess over various dragon minutiae even though the series has ended.
This relatively new term, first coined in 1994, offers a combo of the words quantum and bit, as in digital info. Use it when discussing the “unit of information in a computational model based on the unstable qualities of quantum mechanics.” The word qubit uses principles of physics to describe units of computing info that behave or exist in a similar way as quantum things. Laypersons in those disciplines should use qubit with caution.
Get ready for an optimistic take on health. As opposed to pathogenesis, a focus on the origin of disease, the prefix “salut,” refers to “safety, well-being, health.” According to Merriam-Webster, salutogenesis is “a newer way of thinking about health… a manner of monitoring health by promoting well-being rather than measuring disease.”
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When a team has a huge, insurmountable lead and there’s still a few minutes left on the clock, coaches often send in the bench players. That way, there’s no risk of injury to starters and there’s no need for aggressive defensive play. When this trend happens it’s known as “garbage time.” Ouch! How are the second string players supposed to gain confidence if their field experience is referred to as garbage time? This is a good time for spectators to refill the popcorn bowl.
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It’s a lovely colour and in secondary meanings, it’s a description of language that is either showy or profane. Recently, it’s taken on a political tinge. Since the colour purple is a combo of red and blue, purple has become a descriptor for states or communities with an equal amount of red and blue policies, candidates or legislators, otherwise known as Republicans and Democrats.
You may know her as the little “breaking and entering” heroine who made herself right at home in the three bears’ abode. The storybook character Goldilocks is also famous for needing her porridge temp and her mattress firmness exactly perfect. Not too hot and not too soft. Just right. Astronomers call planet orbit areas Goldilocks if they aren’t too hot or too cold to support life. Are these orbits just right? If they’re in the Goldilocks zone, yes.
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You know receipts as your proof of purchase given to you on a small slip at the cash register. It’s also an informal term for proof or evidence. Say, a certain someone claims to not have stolen the last cookie. If you have photo evidence or even just a trail of crumbs, then you’ve got the receipts. Bust that cookie thief!
There are so few places that don’t have cell service, but they do exist, giving you an excuse, if you need one, to fully unplug. Unplug was once the simple verb for disconnecting a cord from an outlet or getting rid of an obstruction. In the smartphone era, it stands for detaching from digital life and putting away your phone or connection to the larger world. It can also mean to temporarily take a break from everyday duties.
So, now brands aren’t the only thing with brands. People can have a brand—that’s your public identity or image. Even concepts like decades or moods can have a brand. Be careful not to skew too off-brand as you cultivate and curate your brand. When someone or something is on-brand, they’re hitting it just right. Their brand is consistent with and supportive of their public identity.
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Beverages are now a cultural force. We consume them constantly and on-the-go. In that case, you’ve got to have a go-cup, “a plastic or paper cup used especially for taking a beverage off the premises,” of wherever you’ve purchased it. Your go-cup is not just for infused water after yoga or your particular kind of latte. It’s for parties too. Whatever you’re drinking, take it with you, and head out to the street with your go-cup.
Screen time used to refer only to movie screens and the amount of time a star, or even a brand for product placement, appeared on screen. Now the term refers to any amount of time spent in front of an actual electronic screen. Whether you’re binge-watching your favourite TV show, getting in some gaming hours, or reading this article on the Internet, you are engaging in screen time.
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Have you ever noticed the pleasant smell of the earth after a warm rain? That smell is called “petrichor,” and it can make water taste bad. How does petrichor occur? It has to do with bacteria that form a “volatile, organic compound,” which the science of smell has named geosmin.
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This term was first used in 1854 to refer to the study and treatment of “severe, acute physical injuries sustained by individuals requiring immediate medical attention.” Though the term originated in the 19th century, it’s finally made it into the dictionary likely due to the increase in these kinds of traumatic injuries—the kind sustained from car accidents or gunshot wounds.
This business term from the 1980s combines a kind of bird with the U.S. economic system. Vultures are known for subsisting on a diet mainly of carrion (“dead or putrefying flesh“) otherwise known as corpses. The term can also refer to a predatory person. Combine it with capitalism and you have the phrase for when these types buy ailing businesses and sell them for profit in an aggressive manner.
Headwind or tailwind
These terms used to relate to aircraft directions—the way the wind blows generally effects a force or pull. It helps or inhibits progress and direction. The terms have come to stand in for that propulsion or restraint, the headwind or tailwind, of enterprises or other projects.
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This new entertainment term refers to an episode of television that is confined to one, single setting. Though considered to be much cheaper to produce due to the limited setting, these episodes are often fan favourites known for their innovative use of suspense and style. One of the most notable bottle episodes is Breaking Bad’s “The Fly,” in which meth chemist Walter White engages in a battle with a common housefly. The episode takes place in a single setting—the new meth lab which the fly may contaminate. But the fly is not really the problem, is it Walter?
Next, check out the seven words you never realized were examples of onomatopoeia.