New Words Added to the Dictionary


Nathan Shube, A & E Editor

Have you ever wondered how a word gets added to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary? According to the Washington Post over 1,700 words were added this year alone. Many are pop culture- multimedia driven words like meme and photobomb; however, the process for official inclusion in the dictionary can be a complicated one. Some words are fast-tracked because of their importance and frequent usage. Words like AIDS were quickly added for this reason. Most of the time, words begin as a citation instead of an official entry. The more a word is referenced or cited, the more likely it will eventual be included as an official entry. Furthermore, the more varied the publications are who reference the word, the more likely it will receive an official-word status.

According to the Merriam-Webster’s website (, site editors spend hours every day familiarizing themselves with various publications: magazines, newspapers, and books as well as electronic sources.  They scour the material, “reading and marking”, on the lookout for new words. The process also involves studying how a work is used and variant spellings in an effort to formulate an official definition and dictionary entry. In this way, existing entries for words can be adjusted to update their definitions to reflect the evolution of their usage.

Abbreviations can also be officially entered. This year’s abbreviations include WTF (look it up if you don’t know; it has an official definition that can’t be referenced here) and NSFW (not safe for work; not suitable for work — used to warn someone that a website, e-mail attachment, etc., is not suitable for viewing at most places of employment). YLHS’s Language Arts Department Chair, Mrs. Shube has this to say about new words being included in the dictionary, “Language is always evolving. If you don’t believe me, read Shakespeare. He coined over a thousand words we commonly use today.”