New English Words Added to the Dictionary in 2016

Although you might not notice it, languages change all the time. The easiest way to see these changes is just to look in a dictionary! Additional words are added throughout the year as new technology creates new needs for words, interactions with other cultures bring foreign words into the language, and popular usage makes it necessary to define new terms.

The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the most respected collections of English words. Some words make it in shortly after they become popular, while others are used for a long time before they make it into the dictionary. Getting into the dictionary doesn't necessarily mean that a word is considered standard ("conversate" is also amongst this year's newbies, despite the fact that grammar purists will tell you it's an incorrect form of "converse"), but it does mean that it's used enough that it's good to know what it means. After a new round of updates, you’ll now be able to find all of the following terms. Have you been using any of them already?


Mahalo (noun and interjection)

Definition: thank you

Example: “Mahalo to the person who found my wallet and returned it to me!”

This is an example of new word coming into English from other languages. Mahalo is the Hawaiian word for “thank you.”

hula girl
"Mahalo" is often used outside of Hawaii, and is a popular term in surfer culture.


Wow factor (noun)

Definition: a quality or feature that is extremely impressive

Example: The apartment we saw yesterday was okay, but the high ceilings and terrace of the one we saw today had much more of a wow factor.

In English (and many other languages), “wow” is something you say when you’re very impressed. Similarly, something impressive can “wow” you. It makes sense, then, that something with a “wow factor” will be extra cool!


CamelCase (noun)

Definition: the practice of writing compound words with the first letter of each smaller piece capitalized

Example: Remember to capitalize the P in iPhone – always write it in camelCase!

The concept of camelCase has existed in some form for a long time; originally it was used for scientific formulae and later for brand names. Computer languages and technology have made the use particularly common in recent times, whether you’re talking about your iPad or Microsoft PowerPoint. The name comes from the fact that the uppercase letters in the middle of the word look like a camel’s humps.

Look at how the camel's hump goes higher and lower, just the way camelCase works with text.


Listicle (noun)

Definition: an article in a magazine, newspaper, or especially on a website that is presented in the form of a list (often used negatively)

Example: George would rather read a funny listicle on BuzzFeed than a lengthy report in the New York Times.

The term listicle is made from the combination of "list" and "article." Some purist journalists think that listicles are limiting the new generation's attention span. What do you think?


Fro-yo (noun)

Definition: frozen yogurt

Example: Want to grab some fro-yo after dinner?

Fro-yo is a quicker way of saying “frozen yogurt” – just drop off the second half of each of the words! Many changes in languages make rules simpler and words easier to say.

Frozen Yogurt
Fro-yo is a popular dessert. So popular they created a new word for it!


Dive bar (noun)

Definition: An unglamorous bar, often serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks to regular group of clients

Example: I don’t want to get too dressed up tonight. Can we just go to the dive bar down the street and have a few drinks?

A dive bar (sometimes shortened just to “dive”) is a very broad term. It can mean anything from a comfortable bar down the street that isn’t especially pretty but that is perfect for a few cheap drinks, to a dirty bar that isn’t somewhere you’d like to spend a lot of time.


Words and abbreviations from the internet

“Textspeak” and extensive electronic communication have brought many abbreviations into everyday usage. Some are used only when written, while others have made their way into everyday speech. Here are some of the abbreviations now officially recognized by the OED:

BRB: be right back

JK: just kidding

IDC: I don’t care

IDK: I don’t know

IIRC: If I recall correctly

IRL: in real life


As the English language continues to evolve, any guesses which words will be added to the dictionary next? Let us know in the comments! If you want to learn them before they make it to the dictionary, considering studying abroad at one of our English language schools all over the world

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