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Rewriting the English Dictionary Posted by on Nov 4, 2021 in English Language, English Vocabulary, News

Image by PDPics from Pixabay

As you probably know, every year new words are added to English dictionaries. English is, after all, an ever-evolving language. Although, the editors of all the various dictionaries seldom agree on what words merit consideration and inclusion. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for 2021, for instance, added the hyphenated word haggis-headed, which describes someone who “acts in a foolish manner”. As much as I like the word, it’s unlikely to make its way into an American English dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster, anytime soon. Similarly, the OED also added the uniquely British slang word gyaff, which means “to gossip or chatter idly”. That word is completely unknown in the United States.

But, before we single out our cousins from across the pond for adding silly words, let’s not create a faff without taking a look at some of the words added this year by Merriam-Webster. (Faff, by the way, is a British slang word meaning “a fuss or bother” and is in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.)

  • amirite

This slang word which is short for “am I right?” is used as a tag question in informal speech. This owes its popularity to TV star and comedian Jerry Seinfeld who frequently used it on his eponymous comedy series. Adding this to the dictionary makes you wonder what the English language is coming to, amirite?

  • hard pass

This compound term, and there are a lot of them this year, means “to make a firm refusal or rejection of something”. “The money I was being offered to take a new job couldn’t make up for the unsafe working conditions, so I took a hard pass.”

COVID Related Words

  • breakthrough

Not a new word, of course, but one with a new meaning. Today, a breakthrough is a noun meaning “an infection in someone who has been vaccinated against the infection.”

  • super-spreader

An occasion, event, or location at which many people contract a communicable disease.

  • vaccine passport

Official proof documenting that an individual has been vaccinated against a disease.


Food Related Words

  • fluffernutter

A fluffernutter is a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow crème on white bread. It is sweet, soft, sticky, and really tasty. It’s also been around for over 100 years and suddenly only now entering the dictionary. Crazy, amirite?

  • air fryer

This is an electrical appliance that uses high-speed convection fans to rapidly fry certain foods without using much oil.

  • ghost kitchen

A ghost kitchen is a professional, commercial kitchen where food is prepared, but delivered and served at another location. This is another COVID-related entry. When the pandemic shut restaurants down they continued to survive by cooking for take-out service. 


  • whataboutism

This word refers to the practice of deflecting blame or criticism by citing someone or something else as being worse. “Yes, I lied on my resume, but how does that compare to the charges of perjury leveled against my opponent just five years ago?”

  • astroturf

Astroturf, capitalized, is a commercial name for artificial lawns and other green spaces. Used without capitalization, astroturf is a clever form of making a political cause seem local when it is actually funded by powerful and large donor groups. “The campaign to ban certain books from the local library is actually an astroturf cause paid for by a national group located in Washington, DC.”

  • cancel culture

This is the practice of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure on individuals who have done something that offends many people.

  • deplatform

Related to cancel culture, to deplatform someone is to remove that person from a social network or from some other method of expressing their opinions to the masses.


Black and Indigenous People of Color. “These new rules will make it very hard to discriminate against our BIPOC neighbors in the community.”

There are 455 new words added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary this year, and I certainly can’t list them all here. Rest assured, though, there will be more to come in 2022.

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About the Author: Gary Locke

Gary is a semi-professional hyphenate.