Language is constantly evolving with new words in English as they add them to dictionaries every year. Therefore, a language learner or a native speaker, staying up to date on neologisms in English language can expand your linguistic capacities. As a result, they wow others with your language skills and expertise.
In this article, we will give you a brief insight into:
- how new words are created
- examples of new words in English dictionaries
- how you could identify potential new English words yourself
How new words are created?
Typically, new words in English come about when one person uses a novel term, and the use of the term catches on in other social groups. As the word becomes more widely used, dictionary editors, who are solely tasked with discovering these latest word trends, notice it and add it to their database.
How a word becomes a new word in the dictionary:
The process is long and not all words make the cut. Merriam-Webster assesses potential new word entries according to these three criteria:
- Frequent use: The word is used over a long period of time. It’s not just a trend.
- Widespread use: People are using the word in various regions and by various demographic groups.
- Meaningful use: The word must mean what it describes.
Examples of New Words in English Dictionaries
So, let’s jump right in with these 12 new words in English and their meanings:
- gig worker: someone who works a temporary job as an independent contractor or freelancer (Merriam-Webster).
“The life of a gig worker can be exciting due to the flexibility, but can it also be stressful at times.”
2020 has been crazy, amirite?
- amirite: non-standard spelling of “am I right” used to invite agreement regarding a statement (Collins Dictionary).
“2020 has been crazy, amirite?”
- cancel culture: mass withdrawing of support from public figures to express disapproval and to exert social pressure (Merriam-Webster).
“Cancel culture can be a useful tool to end offensive and harmful behavior.”
- zhuzh/zhoosh (up): slang meaning to make something more exciting, lively, or attractive (Collins Dictionary).
“The pandemic is giving people more time to zhuzh up their living spaces.”
- staycation: a vacation or holiday spent at home or nearby (Merriam-Webster).
“During our family staycation, we played board games and watched movies together.”
- mask shaming/mask-shaming: criticizing or confronting someone who has no face covering (Macmillan Dictionary).
“Some individuals mask shame others by giving them a disapproving look. Others prefer verbalizing their disapproval from a distance.”
- ish: slang used to express reservation or qualified assent (Collins Dictionary).
Speaker A: “It looks like the weather is getting better.” Speaker B: “Ish.”
- ecoanxiety/eco-anxiety: worry about what will happen due to the environmental or climate crisis (Macmillan Dictionary).
“Those with eco-anxiety often feel a sense of helplessness and frustration.”
- empty suit: someone in a position of authority who is ineffectual (Merriam-Webster).
“Politicians often try to paint their opponents as empty suits to gain public support.”
- sharenting: the habitual use of social media to share news, images, etc. of one’s children (Collins Dictionary).
“Sharenting can seem like the solution to get through the coronavirus pandemic but putting too much personal information online can be dangerous.”
- adorkable: unfashionable or socially awkward in a way regarded as appealing or endearing (Oxford English Dictionary).
“She’s so adorkable with her hair and glasses.”
Sometimes new words in English are widely used but are yet to be added to the dictionary, like the following:
- anthropause: the (temporary) disappearance of humans from natural environments. – This entry suggestion to the Collins Dictionary has yet to be approved.
How Can You Spot Potential New Words in the English Language?
Now that you’ve learned these new words in English with meanings, how can you spot potential new words?
Apply the same techniques dictionary editors use in their search for new words in English when you scour your social media feeds and chat with your family and friends via phone or video chat.
Remember: the more you use a word and influence others to use a word, the more likely it will become a neologism – who knows, your word may even find itself as an official entry in the dictionary one day.
Now you’re all set to zhuzh up your vocabulary, amirite?