Languages are always growing, adapting and changing. While different lexicons grow out of different cultures and areas, new words can also be officially added to the English dictionary.
Staying up to date with new words in English, and understanding their meaning, will help you improve your English knowledge as well as your speaking skills in conversation.
Why are new English words created and how do they become popular?
When many people use certain words and agree on their meaning, the words can eventually be listed in an official dictionary such as the Oxford English Dictionary, and trusted online dictionaries for English word definitions, meanings, and pronunciation such as the Merriam-Webster.
New words often arise the same way other trends arise – one person begins using a certain word, others begin to pick it up and eventually the word spreads across different groups and places. It is then the responsibility of the lexicographer or dictionary editor to recognise these words and suggest their addition to the dictionary.
However, not all new words that are added to the English dictionary are popularly used. There are some words, for example, that are specific to a certain occupation and therefore will only be used by those who work in that field. A variety of different words can be added to the dictionary, including slang, commonly used words and industry-specific terminology.
In 2022 several words were added to the English dictionary, including:
- Amirite (interjection): A shortened version of ‘Am I right?’ this word was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary earlier this year. This is still extremely informal – so we wouldn’t recommend addressing your manager or professor with this spelling!
- Copypasta (noun): This word references to a block of text or image that has been copied and shared several times online. The first use of the word was in 2006, for example ‘The tweet became a copypasta and was shared numerous times.’
- Gig worker (noun): A gig is a job, but usually a temporary job. A ‘gig worker’ refers to people who take on short jobs and is connected to the term ‘gig economy’ where more people are taking on temporary positions rather than fixed contracts. Some roles this could include are freelance photographers or uber drivers.
- Hygge (adjective): The Danish word for ‘cozy’ (feeling warm, comfortable and safe) e.g., ‘Everyone was excited for a hygge Christmas dinner, focusing on family, friendship and happiness.’ Hygge has been picked up by Brits and is now logged as a new word in the Cambridge Dictionary.
- Long-hauler (noun): Although this term has existed for a long time, its meaning has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though previously used to mean someone who travels long distances, the term is now commonly used to speak of someone who experiences long term effects following what seemed to be an initial improvement or recovery from a serious illness like COVID-19.
- Stan (verb or noun): an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan, originating from Eminem’s 2000 song ‘Stan’ about an obsessive fan. ‘Stan’ is commonly used in internet cultures e.g. ‘I stan for Taylor Swift!’
- Anti-vaccine: Again, another word that was likely popularised by the pandemic, this means to be opposed to vaccinations.
- Gaslighter (noun): A person who deceives or psychologically manipulates another into questioning his or her own perceptions or sanity. This is often used in reference to a partner or spouse and is a common term today.
- Self-sabotaging (verb): The action of causing harm to oneself or one’s own interests especially when this is involuntary or unconscious e.g. ‘Sometimes we self-sabotage because we are trying to protect ourselves’ .
- Metaverse (noun): (in science fiction) a shared, realistic, and immersive computer simulation of the real world or other possible worlds, in which people participate as digital avatars. E.g., ‘A wealthy investor bought 2000 acres of land…however, the news didn’t make headlines because the land was virtual – it existed only in the metaverse.’
- Hangry (adjective): A combination of ‘hungry’ and ‘angry’ this refers to someone feeling or acting grumpy when they need something to eat.
- Mansplaining (verb): Defined as explaining something ‘needlessly, overbearingly, or condescendingly, especially to a woman, in a manner thought to reveal a patronising or chauvinistic attitude’.
- Chipper (noun): This is a colloquial term for the fish and chip shop, e.g., ‘Would you like anything from the chipper?’ or ‘Tonight I feel like getting a chipper.’
- Co-working (verb): For many people, there have been changes to their working environments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-working refers to individuals from different companies coming together to work in one space.
- Staycation (noun): This refers to taking a holiday in your home country rather than going abroad. For example, ‘I wanted to go away this year – but instead we’ve opted for a staycation.’
- Cheugy (adjective): This term has also been popularised by the internet and social media, referring to people who follow trends considered cheesy or out of date and embrace it.
- Fast fashion (noun): This refers to designers and manufacturers who create and constantly launch new clothes at prices lower than other clothing brands. The ethics of the fast fashion industry are often questioned since companies contribute to high pollution rates and have been known to use inhumane labour conditions.
- A-game (noun): Your highest level of performance. For example, ‘Wow you were so impressive today! You really brought you’re a-game!’
- Destigmatising (verb): The action of removing negative connotations or social stigma associated with something, e.g. ‘We have been working to normalise and destigmatise mental health issues.’
- Influencer (noun): To influence means to encourage or affect change in some way. However, today the term influencer is often used to describe the role of people who have a large following on social media. E.g., ‘They grew their blog so they could quit their job and focus on being an influencer full time.’
You may be familiar with some – or all – of these words. Other commonly used words that were recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary are banana bread, LOL and plant-based. Inclusion of ‘LOL’ shows how slang grows and becomes popularised to the point where it’s necessary to include the term in the dictionary. However, even though these words are added to the dictionary, it doesn’t mean they are acceptable in formal written work.
So, if you want to learn new English words and their meanings – we hope you’ve found some help to get started. The Language Gallery offers several courses in London, Birmingham and Nottingham to help you improve and expand your English language skills. Whether you are looking to advance your skills for work, university study or self-improvement – we have a programme for you.
Our General English course is designed for those at Beginner A1 to Upper Intermediate B2+ level of English and you will get the chance to meet other English students and practise your skills as a class.
If you are looking to improve your language skills to study at an English university, you may prefer to enrol in our Academic English course. This course is perfect for students whose first language is not English who are preparing to go to university where English is the main language. You will be able to improve your English language and academic skills to make your time studying more straightforward.