9 Words Removed From the Dictionary

Thursday, September 52 min read

The English language is comprised of thousands and thousands of words (more than 170,000 in the Oxford English Dictionary). But as language evolves and new vocabulary (including slang) is coined, older words that have fallen out of favor are continually revised, retired, and, sometimes, removed from dictionaries.

Full compendiums such as the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary are more likely to change the usage of a word by marking it as "archaic," "historical," or "obsolete." But smaller, or more specialized, dictionaries can be more particular. A "descriptivist" philosophy means the dictionary represents how language is used, and sometimes words drop out of the lexicon.

So, is a word no longer a word once it’s been removed from a dictionary? Maybe. Maybe not. Have you used any of these words recently?

Aerodrome

A British term referring to a landing field for airplanes and related structures (e.g., hangars). The word "airport" has since replaced it.

Alienism

This is an obsolete term for psychiatry, which is the study and treatment of mental illnesses. It’s a fair assumption this term was phased out due to the offensive connotation of connecting the word "alien" with mentally ill patients.

Brabble

To brabble is to squabble, quarrel, argue, or fight. Considering the number of synonyms readily available for this one word, retiring it was for the best.

Charabanc

From French, meaning wagon with benches, this combination of a bus and a motor coach was used for sightseeing. This word belongs in historical fiction now.

Deliciate

Check again, this word is NOT "delicate." "Deliciate" means to amuse or please oneself by indulging in revels. It does, however, come from the Latin word delicatus, which means delicate. With this confusing etymology, it’s better that this word dropped out of use.

Frigorific

This word was used to describe something that causes cold or is chilling. Today we still have "frigid," but the older cousin is no longer commonly used.

Frutescent

Love shrubs? This word means having the appearance of a shrub, but Merriam-Webster shows it in the bottom 10% of word searches. Perhaps it's time for this word to meet its retirement.

Supererogation

It sounds like an advanced form of interrogation, but it means going above and beyond what is required by duty, obligation, or need. Its roots lie in Medieval Latin, and when "supererogation" was first coined, it was primarily used in religious contexts.

Younker

The older definition of this word can refer to a young man or a child. There’s also a former department store founded in 1856 by the name of "Younkers" — now it's online-only. Otherwise, this one isn’t used anymore.

Photo credit: Markus Winkler/ Unsplash

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