What's in a word?

Language is a constantly evolving beast. Every year, new words previously just part of urban culture are formally recognised and added to our dictionaries.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) touts itself as the authority on all things ‘English language’. It claims to be the “unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words—past and present—from across the English-speaking world”.

In September, the OED released hundreds of ‘new’ words it’s adding to the dictionary. While some of them look familiar to me (bocconcini and cheerlead, for example) others are definitely straight off the streets.

We’ve all heard the term ‘clickbait’ to describe appallingly sensational and provocative headlines used to lure you to a web page, where you’ll then be bombarded with advertising. Well, clickbait just made it to the real world.

‘Filterless’ has made it too. But because of the OED’s hefty subscription fee, I can’t give you the official dictionary definition. Just my own canny and intuitive interpretation. I reckon filterless (adjective) has come from the characterisation of people who will say or do anything without thinking first. Or it could be the recognition of the Instagram user disclaimer referring to unenhanced photos with #nofilter.

That’s my guess. How will you use this fresh-to-the-dictionary specimen of the English language?

Another obscure new addition is ‘flerovium’. It’s an extremely radioactive element with its own Wikipedia page, no less. Although of Russian origin, it’s now officially an English word. That’s probably the same deal with the entry of the Italian cheese I mentioned above.

Now for some quirkier new entrants that already had their street-cred.

‘Freemium’ is now recognised, although has been widely employed as an online business model for years. Certain products are provided free of charge, while others are provided for a premium.

‘Shopaholism’ or compulsive buying is a serious disorder. It’s also now officially a word.

‘Yogalates’ – oh, I see what’s happening here. The fusion of yoga and pilates. LOL.

And the underworld will be pleased to know the term for a police informer or traitor as a ‘cheese eater’ has graduated from the urban dictionary to the prestigious Oxford.

Who would’ve thought the dictionary could be so entertaining? Check out the full list and see how many of the new words you can work out – or maybe already use. YOLO. By the way, that’s now a fully-fledged English word too. I think I just broke my spell-checker.