OED Has The Last Word: Dictionary Announces 600 Additions, Including a New Final Entry

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Athichart Pluemprem)

Word nerds: get pumped. The Oxford English Dictionary (your Bible, we know) just announced it has added more than 600 new, official “best words,” phrases, and senses to the annals of its “bigly” archives in its quarterly update this June.

While bigly had already made the cut, it’s still a thing to writers, trust us. And OED is finally acknowledging that “thing” is, in fact, a thing, with a new sense of the thousand-year-old noun in the June 2017 update. According to the official OED blog post announcement about the updates, “The new sense is defined as ‘a genuine or established phenomenon or practice’, and is often used in questions conveying surprise or incredulity, such as ‘is that even a thing?'”

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Brides (and wedding writers) should rejoice: not only has the OED updated its official list of types of wedding veils in the June 2017 update, along with their official definitions, but it also has this beautiful, interactive timeline dating back to 1870 which features the entries along with definitive photos and footnotes as to when they were first mentioned in popular media. (Way to be up on the trends with those upcycled lightbulb and jute twine hanging vases in your cover photo, too, OED!)

It also added a definition for “Boston Marriage,” otherwise recognized in pop culture dating back to 19th century Henry James novels as being a committed, loving lesbian couple. As a native Bostonian, I’m kind of proud of this historical woke-ness — and “woke” also gets a more fully actualized historical definition in the June 2017 update of the OED, including proof it has been used in its current context since at least 1962, though controversial.

“Because of the term’s prominence in today’s popular culture, as well as the role it seems to have played in the 1960s and 70s, the OED Appeals Program is currently seeking any contextual evidence (i.e. not from a glossary or definition) of woke meaning ‘well informed’ or ‘alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice’ that dates from earlier than 2008,” says the OED blog.

While elsewhere right now science is under attack, science gets its day in the sun in the new OED update, with a “motley plethora of terms related to subatomic particles.” Professional wrestling fans get some recognition, too, with definitions for popular jargon related to the sport.

Creative expletives have their heyday, too. Want a new (old) way to insult someone? Try “son of a bachelor”— a phrase dating back to a 1657 play by Thomas Jordan — instead of “son of a bitch” or “bastard”. Need a new way to complain about the weather this winter? Try “bloody Baltic” — a slang phrase used by Scottish students quite often, as I heard firsthand while visiting my siblings in winter when they were students at St. Andrews University, which sits directly on the North Sea and has Baltic winds whipping through on the regular.

There’s also a literal last word on words, with “zyzzyva” (zih-zih-va) — the name for a genus of tropical weevils native to South America, typically found on or near palm trees — replacing “zythum” (zi-them) — a type of ancient Egyptian beer — as the final entry in the OED.

Want to know more about the 600 new words, phrases, and senses? Read all about the update and revised meanings in this article by Katherine Connor Martin, Head of US Dictionaries for the OED.