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455 New Words Added to Dictionary

Merriam-Webster added 455 new words to the Dictionary in Oct. 2021.
Merriam-Webster added 455 new words to the Dictionary in Oct. 2021.
455 New Words Added to Dictionary
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So, do you think learning all 1,500 words in the VOA Learning English Word Book is hard?

We have got news for you.

American publisher Merriam-Webster announced it has added 455 new words to its dictionary for October 2021.

The publisher said, “Just as the language never stops evolving, the dictionary never stops expanding.” The 455 new words came from what the publisher called “extensive and established use.”

Merriam-Webster said the quick and informal nature of messaging, texting and tweeting online has increased during the pandemic. That, in turn, has given rise to a vocabulary filled with shortened forms of words and expressions.

Listen to the conversation below to hear some of these new words in use:

Person A: “Our social media professional just asked me what FTW is.”

Person B: “TBH, an expert in social media should really know the meaning of FTW, amirite?”

FTW is an abbreviation for “for the win.” It is often used to express approval or support on social media. TBH is short for “to be honest.” And the word amirite is a shortened way to spell “am I right?”


The COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020 gave us terms like contact tracing, flattening the curve, and social distancing.

Even with record-setting vaccination programs, we know the pandemic is still not over. And new pandemic-related words have been added to our daily vocabulary.

Here are some of those phrases that Merriam-Webster has added to its dictionary:

  • breakthrough is often used to describe an infection occurring in someone who is fully vaccinated against an infectious disease like COVID-19
  • super-spreader is an event or place at which a large number of people contract the same communicable disease
  • long COVID is a condition that is marked by the presence of symptoms such as headache and shortness of breath that continue for weeks or months following a person's recovery from COVID-19
  • And a vaccine passport is now required to enter many countries and places. This is a document providing proof of vaccination against infectious diseases (such as COVID-19)

Tech, Science, Culture, etc...

Digital technology has helped many of us continue with our daily lives during the pandemic. The use of technology has led to new ways to describe technology-related risks. When digital information in an image or audio recording cannot be read, it is called a bit rot. And zero-day is a term to describe weakness in computer systems that cybercriminals discover.

From political events, we have whataboutism. This is “the act or practice of responding to an accusation of wrongdoing by claiming that an offense committed by another is similar or worse.” And vote-a-rama describes the unusually large number of debates and votes that happen in one day in the United States Congress.

Other new words come from foods and drinks. One such word is fluffernutter. This is a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow between two pieces of white bead. Another is horchata – a cold drink made from ground rice or almonds, with spices like cinnamon or vanilla.

Eating too many fluffernutters could give you a bit of a dad bod. The dictionary publisher describes a dad bod as the body of an average father, especially, it says, “one that is slightly overweight and not extremely muscular.”

In today’s program, we have only had time to tell you about 16 of the 455 new words from Merriam-Webster. And this is not even the first time this year it has added hundreds of new words. Last January, the dictionary publisher added 520 new words. That is a lot of new vocabulary for you to study.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

Hai Do wrote this story for VOA Learning English with information from Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

evolve - v. to change or develop slowly

informal - adj. relaxed in tone and not suitable for serious speech or writing

abbreviation - n. a shortened form of a word or name that is used in place of the full word or name

respond - v. to do something as a reaction to something that has occurred

sandwich - n. two pieces of bread with something in between

marshmallow - n. a soft, white, sweet food made of sugar and eggs

spice - n. a substance that is used in cooking to add flavor