Just because a new slang term is being used all over TikTok, or even in real life, doesn’t mean it immediately gets added to the dictionary. For a word to get added to the pages (or web pages) of a dictionary, it has to show lasting power. Many slang terms drop out of use before a lexicographer takes note. But after years or even decades of use, popular colloquialisms such as “baller, “cringe,” and “yeet,” were finally added to the dictionary in 2022. Of course, many of the past year’s inductees aren’t slang. Jargon seen in news headlines all year long, including “shrinkflation” and “metaverse,” also made the cut. What else officially entered the annals of American English this year? If these words aren’t already in your personal lexicon, they should be.
“Baller” received a new definition this year, thanks to Merriam-Webster. As a new, informal slang term, “baller” describes something “excellent, exciting, or extraordinary,” especially relating to a lavish lifestyle, as in, “It was clear from his frequent trips on his private jet that the actor lived a baller lifestyle.” “Baller” was first recorded with this use in 2003, but its oldest usage, which denotes an athlete that plays a sport involving a ball, has been around since 1586.
The word “cringe” is nothing new; it has been around since the 13th century (as a verb) and describes an act of recoiling, usually out of distaste or fear. The new dictionary entry of “cringe” in 2022, however, is a slang term synonymous with embarrassment or awkwardness, as in, “That first kiss scene was so cringe!”
This lovely term is actually from 1874 but finally got its big break nearly 150 years later. A “dawn chorus” is exactly what it sounds like — wild birds singing in unison around sunrise, especially during the spring and summer.
“Dumbphone” isn’t a derogatory way to refer to your smartphone — it's a name for its predecessors, early cell phones. By definition, this is a cell phone that doesn’t feature any advanced software, including an internet browser. The word was first coined in 1997 but officially entered the dictionary in 2022.
According to the dictionary, “Galentine’s Day” is a holiday celebrated annually on February 13. The day before Valentine’s Day has become a time to celebrate friendships, especially among women — “gals.” The word was likely coined in February 2010 on the American sitcom Parks and Recreation in an episode called “Galentine’s Day.”
“Greenwashing” is a marketing gimmick that makes a product or policy appear more environmentally friendly than it actually is. The term first appeared in the 1980s, but its unfortunate popularity shows no signs of slowing down, resulting in its induction into the dictionary this past year.
“Janky” is a way to describe something as “faulty” or “junky,” as in, “The janky Wi-Fi signal left her unable to finish her report.” This word has an unclear etymology, but it likely comes from African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and it could be a colloquial pronunciation of either “junky” or “jinxed.”
This 2022 buzzword describes an environment of multiple virtual realities that are individualized for each user. At the end of 2021, the social-media supergiant Facebook rebranded itself as “Meta,” both reinforcing the notion of the metaverse, and further solidifying the word’s legitimacy in English, eventually landing it a spot in the dictionary. The secondary definition of “metaverse” is used in a similar way in cosmology to refer to the hypothetical combination of all universes.
This go-to holiday flavor is now dictionary-official. “Pumpkin spice” is a mixture of spices (used to make pumpkin pie), including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice — but pie isn’t what made this combo famous. Holiday coffee drinks, specifically pumpkin spice lattes, did. A popular accompaniment to the PSL (pumpkin spice latte) is oat milk, another new dictionary term for 2022.
If you’ve noticed less cereal in your bag this year, you aren’t alone, and you’re a victim of “shrinkflation.” This phenomenon involves reducing the volume (or amount) of a product per unit without lowering the price. In the case of many consumer goods, buyers are paying the same price for less of an item. The snappy word was first coined in 2013 and is a portmanteau of “shrink” and “inflation.”
Are those leftovers in your fridge looking a little “sus”? This is a slang abbreviation for either “suspicious” or “suspect.” It was first recorded in 1955, but didn’t reach peak popularity until recently, giving us a way to present our (usually mild) suspicions or distrust about something or someone.
Expressing approval or enthusiasm for something is as easy as saying “yeet” these days. It can mean “yes,” “cool,” “awesome,” or any other assortment of words that are in agreement with the current situation. For example, you find a $20 bill on the sidewalk — “yeet!” Its secondary definition is a transitive verb meaning “to throw especially with force and without regard,” either literally or metaphorically, as in, “He yeeted the football” or “She yeeted him out of the group chat.” These two definitions, as an interjection and as a verb, have been around since 2007 and 2017, respectively.
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