These New Dictionary Words Say A Lot About Society

Apparently May is the month when every dictionary ever updates itself, because hot on the tail of and the Scrabble dictionary, we have good ol' Merriam-Webster. The classic dictionary's unabridged version just got a whole lot bigger, with over 1,7000 new entries and 700 expanded entries making their way into the word repository…including clickbait. You heard me: Clickbait was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which means that the apocalypse has officially arrived. Clickbait, guys. What is wrong with us?!

Okay, okay — maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe my knee-jerk response is more due to the fact that clickbait exists at all than to the fact that it's now in the dictionary. But…I don't know. Maybe I'm justified. After all, does putting the word in the dictionary and giving it an official definition not give it a sort of legitimacy it may have lacked before? We're all in agreement that clickbait is the worst — but even so, we apparently seem to either be referring to it (bad), clicking on it (worse), or creating it (worst) enough that it's actually legit now. I feel like maybe we should all be ashamed of ourselves for this. Or…something.

But hey, maybe it's like the bad boy of the Internet or linguistic world: As soon as it becomes institutionalized, maybe its glimmer will begin to dim. After all, clickbait is actually dead already, according to the Webby Awards; perhaps a dictionary definition is just one final nail in the coffin.

Anyhoo, here are nine of what I think are the most ridiculous and/or unique words Merriam-Webster just added to its pages. Spoiler: It gets worse than clickbait. Much, much worse.

1. Photobomb

Definition: To move into the frame of a photograph as it is being taken as a joke or prank. Merriam-Webster doesn't appear to have been able to determine when its first known usage occurred, but oh well. Can't have everything.

2. Clickbait

Definition: Something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest. It's a fairly recent noun, with the the first known usage of it dating back to 2010; I find it particularly interesting that the definition specifies the content frequently touted under the clickbait umbrella as “of dubious value or interest.”

3. Sharing Economy

Definition: Economic activity that involves individuals buying or selling usually temporary access to goods or services, especially as arranged through an online company or organization. It's a noun, and according to Merriam-Webster, its first known usage dates back to 2007. For the curious, TaskRabbit was launched in 2008 and Uber in 2009.

4. Eggcorn

Definition: A word or phrase that sounds like and is mistakenly used in a seemingly logical or plausible way for another word or phrase, either on its own or as part of a set expression. The word itself (which, by the way, is my favorite of the new additions) was coined by linguist Geoffrey Pullum in 2003 on the language website Language Log; the post in question described a woman who used “egg corn” instead of “acorn.” Conveniently, the word's etymology also explains exactly what it means.

5. Meme

Definition: Meme actually has two definitions. Its primary one pegs it as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”; meanwhile, its secondary one describes it as “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online, especially through social media.” Most of us probably think more of the secondary definition than the first when we think of the word meme.

6. Emoji

Definition: Any of various small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail, and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc. The noun's first known usage occurred in 1997; etymologically speaking, it's borrowed from Japanese (literally “pictograph,” with “e” meaning “picture or drawing and “moji” meaning “letter or character). Also, “e-mail” is officially the correct form of that particular word — not “email.” And here I was thinking we'd all become accustomed enough to the lack of a hyphen not to need it anymore. Apparently I was wrong.


Definition: 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. You probably already know this one, as well as its more terrifying cousin, NSFL (“not suitable for life” — used to describe things so horrifying that once seen, they cannot be unseen).

8. WTF

Definition: What the fuck — used especially to express or describe outraged surprise, recklessness, confusion, or bemusement. You probably already know this one, too. Isn't it gratifying to know that your favorite shorthand is officially a part of the English language?

9. Jegging

“Jegging.” Jegging is officially a word now. Jegging. I hope you're happy now.

Definition: A legging that is designed to resemble a tight-fitting pair of denim jeans and is made of a stretchable fabric — usually plural. This abomination of a noun dates back to 2009.

Images: mrd00dman/Flickr; Giphy (4)