Words

Language is a measure of culture, but also, in many ways, language can be a measure of time. The words we use—if they are new or relatively new—are the words we need to express and explain our world. If these words then also become widely used, it becomes the dictionary’s job to explain this use.

Here are some words that were added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary this year:

  • Long hauler : a person who experiences one or more long-term effects following initial improvement or recovery from a serious illness (such as COVID-19)
  • Pod and Bubble : a usually small group of people (such as family members, friends, coworkers, or classmates) who regularly interact closely with one another but with few or no others in order to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of infection during an outbreak of a contagious disease. Bubble also gained an additional meaning: an area within which sports teams stay isolated from the general public during a series of scheduled games so as to prevent exposure to disease and that includes accommodations, amenities, and the location at which the games are held
  • Hard pass : a firm refusal or rejection of something (such as an offer)
  • Flex informal : an act of bragging or showing off
  • Cancel culture : the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure
  • Makerspace : a communal public workshop in which makers can work on small personal projects
  • Coworking : being, relating to, or working in a building where multiple tenants (such as entrepreneurs, start-ups, or nonprofits) rent working space (such as desks or offices) and have the use of communal facilities
  • Crowdfunding : the practice of obtaining needed funding (as for a new business) by soliciting contributions from a large number of people especially from the online community
  • Gig worker : a person who works temporary jobs typically in the service sector as an independent contractor or freelancer
  • Decarceration : release from imprisonment also : the practice or policy of reducing the number of people subject to imprisonment
  • BIPOC (abbreviation) : Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color
  • Folx : folks —used especially to explicitly signal the inclusion of groups commonly marginalized
  • Sapiosexual : of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to highly intelligent people
  • Silver fox : an attractive middle-aged man having mostly gray or white hair
  • ASMR or autonomous sensory meridian response : a pleasant tingling sensation that originates on the back of the scalp and often spreads to the neck and upper spine, that occurs in some people in response to a stimulus (such as a particular kind of sound or movement), and that tends to have a calming effect
  • Hygge : a cozy quality that makes a person feel content and comfortable
  • Second Gentleman : the husband or male partner of a vice president or second in command of a country or jurisdiction