Merriam-Webster Dictionary added more than 1,000 words and phrases to the dictionary in 2017. And while we can’t highlight every single one here, we can highlight the most interesting words and phrases as well as those that received the most attention. According to Merriam-Webster:
“These terms have shown themselves to be fully established members of the language, some after hanging about on the fringes for decades, and others after proving themselves too useful to ignore in relatively short order. All have demonstrated significant use in a variety of sources, making them words our readers expect to find in the dictionary. As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon.”
Read How Words Are Added to a Dictionary to learn more about how words are added to the dictionary and why it’s important to remember how pliable and fascinating the English language is.
Now, without further ado, here are some of the best and most interesting (and in some cases, the most obnoxious) words and phrases that were added to the dictionary in 2017.
a right-wing, primarily online political movement or grouping based in the U.S. whose members reject mainstream conservative politics and espouse extremist beliefs and policies typically centered on ideas of white nationalism
Ex. The alt-right group released their manifesto online before their town hall meeting started.
transitive verb: to watch many or all episodes of (a TV series) in rapid succession
Ex. When she was feeling ill last weekend, Monica binge-watched the entire first season of Criminal Minds on Netflix.
a segment of genetic material found in the genomes of prokaryotes (such as some bacteria and archaea) that consists of repeated short sequences of nucleotides interspersed at regular intervals between unique sequences of nucleotides derived from the DNA of pathogens (such as viruses) which had previously infected the bacteria and that functions to protect the bacteria against future infection by the same pathogens
NOTE: The CRISPR segment encodes, via transcription, short RNA sequences that pair with complementary sequences of viral DNA. The pairing is used to guide an enzyme to cleave the viral DNA and prevent further infection.
Ex. CRISPR can be utilized to create human cellular models of disease.
Ex. CRISPR may revive the concept of transplanting animal organs into people.
EVOO (abbr.; n.)
extra-virgin olive oil
Ex. Be sure to coat the pan with EVOO generously before adding the mushrooms.
intransitive verb: to cover one's face with the hand as an expression of embarrassment, dismay, or exasperation
Ex. Manuel face-palmed as Susan tripped over the curb and fell onto a pile of leaves.
FLOTUS (abbr.; n.)
the first lady of the United States — often used like a nickname
Ex. Last week, FLOTUS announced that she would be spearheading a new literacy program.
froyo (abbr.; n.)
used for “frozen yogurt”: a sweet, frozen dessert that is like ice cream but made from yogurt
Ex. We stopped and got a bowl of froyo on the way home from softball practice.
informal: to abruptly cut off all contact with (someone, such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.
Ex. She ghosted him, instead of meeting him for coffee last week to break up with him in person.
verb, transitive + intransitive: to make a seemingly modest, self-critical, or casual statement or reference that is meant to draw attention to one's admirable or impressive qualities or achievements
Ex. The senator humblebragged about his time in the military academy during his speech at the local quarry.
a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)
Ex. While some of these experiences may seem brief and harmless, many studies have found that microaggression can trigger symptoms of depression and psychological distress.
a genre of narrative film focusing primarily on the intimate lives of young characters and featuring scenes of ample dialogue and minimal action
Ex. It is considered one of the original films of the Mumblecore movement.
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
Ex. Links from that website have been dubbed NSFW by our human resources department.
the act or process of orienting and training a new employee
Ex. The new onboarding seminar included 20 marketing employees.
verb, transitive + intransitive: to move into the frame of a photograph as it is being taken as a joke or prank
Ex. A stranger photobombed us as we were taking a selfie at the Tower of London.
safe space (n.)
a place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations
Ex. The company created a safe space for their employees to talk about what was stressing them out.
of, relating to, or suggestive of the works of Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel); especially: having a playfully inventive or outlandish quality typical or reminiscent of the words and images found in children's stories like The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Ex. The movie was very Seussian and my nine-year-old daughter loved it.
the scoring effect of a schneider (as the doubling of the winner's score)
Ex. He won the tournament due to the schneider.
a sidelong glance or gaze especially when expressing scorn, suspicion, disapproval, or veiled curiosity
Ex. The fashion critic gave the model a side-eye as the model strutted down the runway.
a shrewd, unprincipled person
Ex. Who would have known our senator could be such a snollygoster who could steal from taxpayers?
SCOTUS (abbr.; n.)
the supreme court of the United States —often used like a nickname
Ex. SCOTUS just announced a pivotal ruling that will impact civil rights.
one who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy
Ex. The man, who was a truther, was convinced that his company’s communications were hacked by a foreign entity involved in voter fraud.
weak sauce (n.)
something inferior, ineffective, or unimpressive: something weak
Ex. That press response to the political protests was complete weak sauce, as citizens were covering it much better across social media outlets.
aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)
Ex. That article covering the recent court trial in the post was woke and informative.
word salad (n.)
a string of empty, incoherent, unintelligible, or nonsensical words or comments
Ex. As he was speaking, all I could decipher was complete and meaningless word salad.
working memory (n.)
memory that involves storing, focusing attention on, and manipulating information for a relatively short period of time (such as a few seconds)
Ex. Her working memory about the catastrophe that just occurred was extremely vivid.
Do you have a favorite word that was added to the dictionary in 2017 that isn’t listed here? Share with us in the comments below.