“Side-Eye,” Train Wreck” and 1,000 More Words Added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Photo by Joanne K. Watson/Merriam-Webster via Getty Images.

The English language is evergreen, always reinventing new words to express contemporary ideas, emotions, and beliefs. The Merriam-Webster dictionary announced today that it has added more than 1,000 words.

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The words are drawn from recent advancements in popular culture, science, technology, sports, medicine, and more, taking us on a linguistic field trip through the natural advancements of language and thought. Among the new words added are photobomb, side-eye, train wreck, binge-watch, face-palm, throw shade, safe space, microaggression, woo-woo, wayback, wayback machine, first world problem, ghost, humblebrag, airball, ride shotgun, microbiome, town hall, truther, Seussian, SCOTUS, and FLOTUS.

The Merriam-Webster acknowledges that the revision of the dictionary is an ongoing practice, “even though it seems that the latest slang gets the most attention when dictionaries issue lists of new words, the additions come from the whole range of registers and from every corner of the language. These are words that have demonstrated frequent and increasing use in a variety of sources, and are therefore likely to be encountered by a reader—and should be in the dictionary. In some cases, terms have been observed for years and are finally being added; in others, the fast rise and broad acceptance of a term has made for a quicker journey.”

For example, the term “throwing shade” has been on the scene for decades, making its first major media appearance in the Jenny Livingston’s 1991 documentary film Paris is Burning. However, with the advent of the Internet, it has gone above ground, now being used by people who wouldn’t know the House of LaBeija from House of Cards.

In a statement, the Merriam-Webster explains, “All of these words have been observed, collected, and researched, with many examples in context used to write definitions that explain both basic meanings and specific usage.”

Ultimately, these are words whose time has come. No longer relegated to the realm of slang, they have gone aboveground and entered the mainstream soon to find their way to your family dinners and office parties, while you quietly side-eye and face-palm the scene.


Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.