Merriam-Webster goes ‘beast mode’, adds 690 new definitions to dictionary

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Merriam-Webster announced Wednesday that it has added 690 new words, phrases and acronyms to its dictionary.

Many of the additions are humourous slang words and phrases that originated from internet and video-gaming culture. Merriam-Webster writes that their picks “offer a window into the world today.”

“We’re very excited by this new batch of words,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, said in a press release. “We hope there is as much insight and satisfaction in reading them as we got from defining them.”

Some of the slang words that made the cut include doggo, an affectionate term for a dog; rizz, which describes a person’s romantic appeal and is short for charisma; and GOAT, when something is considered to be the greatest of all time.

Popular acronyms including tfw, that feeling when; ngl, not gonna lie; and ttyl, talk to you later, were also added.

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From the world of gaming we get nerf, to reduce something’s effectiveness; non-player character, a character in a video game that cannot be controlled; and rage quit, to quit something in anger.

Far from the kind of English in a college essay or business email, Merriam-Webster argues these additions are signs of a healthy language, where new words are being created and existing words are given new meanings.

“Based on our most recent research, we are pleased to inform you that English is very (very!) healthy,” it writes.

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Merriam-Webster also added a number of artificial intelligence (AI) terms. The phrases ‘generative AI’ and ‘large language model’ both made the list, as well as an AI-specific definition for hallucination.

And as the U.S. Congress holds hearings on UFOs, Merriam-Webster has decided to add the term UAP, unidentified aerial phenomenon, to the dictionary. UAP is the U.S. government’s official term for UFO.

Other fun additions include:

  • chef’s kiss – “a gesture of satisfaction or approval made by kissing the fingertips of one hand and then spreading the fingers with an outward motion”
  • beast mode – “an extremely aggressive or energetic style or manner that someone (such as an athlete) adopts temporarily”
  • thirst trap – “a photograph (such as a selfie) or video shared for the purpose of attracting attention or desire”
  • simp – “to show excessive devotion to or longing for someone or something”
  • finsta – “secret or incognito account on the Instagram photo-sharing service”
  • jump scare – “a scripted moment (as in a film or video game) intended to startle the audience”
  • smashburger – “a hamburger patty that is pressed thin onto a heated pan or griddle at the start of cooking”
  • zhuzh – “a small improvement, adjustment, or addition that completes the overall look, taste, etc. of something”
  • jorts – “shorts made of denim or jean”

Merriam-Webster writes that it generally looks at three criteria when determining if a new word is suitable for its dictionary: “frequent use, widespread use, and meaningful use.”

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For frequency, dictionary editors look for if the word has been used that specific way over time.

“If it’s a trendy flash in the pan that comes and goes, we don’t enter it into the dictionary,” Merriam-Webster writes.

As for widespread use, Merriam Webster is looking for words that the “average adult is likely to encounter in the world,” so industry-specific jargon and region-specific slang is a no go.

And of course, words must have a coherent meaning in order to get a definition in the dictionary.

If anything, this list of new words and phrases serves as a fun window into popular language in the 2020’s — whether they stick around is another matter.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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