Expanding the Dictionary: The OED’s Latest Additions

Tuesday, June 272 min read

In general, English is a flexible language. It contains a huge vocabulary and is constantly adapting and adopting new words and phrases, both evolving out of the existing corpus (the term used in the dictionary world to refer to the collection of words) and coming from other languages. As such, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), widely respected as the authority on the English language, gets updated on a quarterly basis. The update in March 2023 included 1,400 revised and updated entries, as well as 700 totally new words and phrases. Here’s a selection from that most recent update.


This is one of the more newly formed words in the batch, beginning to appear in the English language as early as 2009, which coincides with the rising popularity of cat videos on the internet in the early 2010s. “Chonky” is an affectionate adjective that means “chunky” or “overweight,” usually referring to a pet.


This word is only five years old, first appearing in 2018 on VICE. “Deepfake” refers to any kind of media, but especially videos, that have been digitally manipulated to replace one person’s likeness with another. This is usually done in malice, to show someone doing something that they didn’t do.

Teen idol

This phrase originated in a 1957 issue of Billboard, but it has recently reentered the lexicon, as demonstrated by a 2022 tweet from @jeffckaplan: “Maybe as a society, we should start a conversation about teenagers becoming teen idols. It can’t be healthy.” “Teen idol” refers to a “highly successful young actor, pop star, etc., usually having a very devoted, usually female, teenage fan base.” While a teen idol can be any gender, traditionally they have been male.


An anagram is a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another — for example, “iceman” is an anagram of “cinema.” According to the latest update of the OED, an antigram is “an anagram that has an opposite or contradictory meaning to the original word or phrase.” So all antigrams are anagrams, but not all anagrams are antigrams. Some examples of antigrams include “funeral”/“real fun” and “honestly”/“on the sly.”


Bitzer” is a new addition to the dictionary that comes from an Australian colloquialism. It can mean two things — either it’s a synonym for “mutt,” referring to a mixed-breed dog, or it’s a “makeshift gadget, contraption, or vehicle constructed from bits and pieces.”


This intransitive verb is pretty archaic, having fallen out of use in 1902, but it reappeared on Twitter in 2013, when @Callum_S_Hume tweeted, “Just realized that my hair kinkles.” By this, they meant their hair has a tendency to become twisted, kinked, or curled. While “kinkle” is much older than some of the other OED additions, it points to terms being added to keep up with current conversations. The CROWN Act of 2022, a bill to ban hair discrimination, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, but was not passed by the Senate in December 2022.


Here’s another Australian colloquialism recently added to the OED. A sparkie is an electrician, or anyone who works with electrical equipment. The term was originally formed as a nickname, but it has become so widely used that “sparkie” earned an entry in the dictionary.


You’ve likely heard the term “bridezilla,” which denotes a woman whose behavior in planning her wedding is regarded as obsessive or demanding. But such behavior is not a gender-specific phenomenon, so the English language has expanded to include “groomzilla.” A groomzilla is the male equivalent of the bridezilla.
Featured image credit: DmitriiSimakov/ iStock

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