We tend to think of dictionaries as authorities on language. But new words and phrases are invented all the time. First they’re used colloquially, then they become widespread. It’s only after these terms are already functionally part of our vocabularies that they’re added to the dictionary, which like language itself is a living thing.
In today’s day and age, internet-speak, current events, and the moving target that is modern slang are largely behind new dictionary additions. At least a thousand entries have been added to various dictionaries in 2021 alone. Here are some of the most hilarious, vital, and topical terms you can now play in Scrabble, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Collins, and Dictionary.com.
Dictionary additions 2021: Collins Dictionary
As of July, HarperCollins added nine new words and phrases to its dictionary in 2021. These are some of the highlights.
Capsule hotel n. a hotel that offers cheap accommodation in very small compartments
Crypto n. slang short for cryptocurrency
Dad joke n. informal a joke that is regarded as weak or corny, esp one involving a laboured pun
Tourist tax n. a tax levied on tourists, esp to discourage overcrowding in popular destinations
Vacay n. American and Canadian informal short for vacation
Dictionary additions 2021: Dictionary.com
Dictionary.com added around 600 words and phrases to its collection of definitions this year. These are some of the highlights.
DEI abbr. diversity, equity, and inclusion: a conceptual framework that promotes the fair treatment and full participation of all people, especially in the workplace, including populations who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination because of their background, identity, disability, etc
Doomscrolling n. the practice of obsessively checking online news for updates, especially on social media feeds, with the expectation that the news will be bad, such that the feeling of dread from this negative expectation fuels a compulsion to continue looking for updates in a self-perpetuating cycle
Supposably adv. as may be assumed, imagined, or supposed
Y’all pron. you (used in direct address usually to two or more people, or to one person who represents a family, organization, etc)
Yeet excl. slang an exclamation of excitement, approval, surprise, or all-around energy, often as issued when doing a dance move or throwing something.
Zaddy n. slang an attractive man who is also stylish, charming, and self-confident
Dictionary additions 2021: Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Merriam-Webster added almost 1,000 words and phrases to its dictionary in 2021. These are some of the highlights.
Air fryer n. an airtight, usually small electrical appliance for quick cooking of foods by means of convection currents circulated rapidly by a fan
Amirite interj. slang used in writing for ‘am I right’ to represent or imitate the use of this phrase as a tag question in informal speech
ASMR n. a pleasant tingling sensation that originates on the back of the scalp and often spreads to the neck and upper spine, that occurs in some people in response to a stimulus (such as a particular kind of sound or movement), and that tends to have a calming effect
BIPOC abbr. Black, Indigenious, (and) People of Color
Bit rot n. the tendency for digital information to degrade or become unusable over time
Copypasta n. data (such as a block of text) that has been copied and spread widely online
Dad bod n. a physique regarded as typical of an average father, esp one that is slightly overweight and not extremely muscular
Deplatform v. to remove and ban (a registered user) from a mass communication medium (such as a social networking or blogging website)
Crowdfunding n. the practice of obtaining needed funding (as for a new business) by soliciting contributions from a large number of people especially from the online community
Digital nomad n. someone who performs their occupation entirely over the Internet while traveling, esp such a person who has no permanent fixed home address.
Flex n. an act of bragging or showing off
Fluffernutter n. a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow crème between two slices of white sandwich bread
Folx pl. n. folks, used esp to explicitly signal the inclusion of groups commonly marginalized
Hard pass n. a firm refusal or rejection of something (such as an offer)
Horchata n. a cold sweetened beverage made from ground rice or almonds and usually flavorings such as cinnamon or vanilla
Hygge n. a cozy quality that makes a person feel content and comfortable
Otaku n. a person having an intense or obsessive interest especially in the fields of anime and manga
Super-spreader n. an individual who is highly contagious and capable of transmitting a communicable disease to an unusually large number of uninfected individuals; an event or location at which a significant number of people contract the same communicable disease
Vaccine passport n. a physical or digital document providing proof of vaccination against one or more infectious diseases (such as COVID-19)
Whataboutism n. the act or practice of responding to an accusation of wrongdoing by claiming that an offense committed by another is similar or worse
Dictionary additions 2021: Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford University Press added around 750 words and phrases to its dictionary in 2021. These are some of the highlights.
Birdo n. a birdwatcher
Boomeranger n. a person who throws a boomerang
Blockchain n. a sequence of digital records or ‘blocks’ linked using cryptography so that each block is verifiable and virtually unchangeable, which is distributed and managed typically in a peer-to-peer network, and used esp by cryptocurrencies as a record of transactions; the technology underpinning this
Comfort eat v. to consume food in an attempt to alleviate feelings of anxiety, boredom, negativity, etc, rather than to satisfy hunger, typically large quantities of food with a high sugar or fat content
Dine-and-dasher n. a person who hastily or furtively leaves a restaurant, cafe, etc, to avoid paying for his or her meal
Gen Z n. the generation of people born between the late 1990s and early 2010s and following Generation Y, noted in particular as the first generation to grow up in the era of widespread use of digital technology (esp the internet and social media)
Innerwear n. clothing designed to be worn under other garments, esp next to the skin
Non-fungible adj. of a product or commodity that has been contracted for: that cannot be replaced by another identical item without breaking the terms of the contract. More generally: not interchangeable or replaceable
Tots n. bite-sized croquettes of shredded potato, fried or baked and typically served hot as a side dish
Wabi-sabi adj. relating to or designating a Japanese aesthetic or world view characterized by finding beauty in imperfection, impermanence, or simplicity; designating a style, appearance, etc, reflecting this aesthetic
Xennial n. a person born between the late 1970s and early 1980s, after (or towards the end of) Generation X and before (or at the beginning of) the millennial generation, and typically regarded as exhibiting characteristics of both of these generations