English In The Real World

12 unexpected words added to the English Dictionary in 2013

Think you know the English language? Think again. Here are a few choice phrases that few expected to make it into common usage: but they’re in the dictionary and here to stay.

Every year the most respected collection of the English language – the Oxford English Dictionary – releases a list of new words that have been deemed so universal as to make it into national usage. From internet slang to TV catchphrases, the words which make the list are as surprising as they are amusing.

2013 has been a bumper year for new words and phrases added to the collection; and, in the true spirit of celebrating the English language, we thought we would share some of our favourites.

1. Selfie

One of many digital entries; a selfie is something anyone who has been on social media will recognize. A process of raising a camera up in front of yourself to an angle where you just see your head and shoulders and take a photo, that’s a selfie. Commonly used as profile pictures online, they have even given birth to their own curious craze called photobombing (another new phrase which describes someone invading another person’s photo).

2. Dad dancing

Dad dancing sounds a bit like a joke: and it is one. Imagine, it’s 11.30pm at your sister’s wedding and the parents are all significantly drunk enough to start ‘shaking a leg’. What ensues is some slightly embarrassing jiggling, with no particular rhythm, which until recently had no name. But now it shall be called ‘dad dancing’, and everyone can share it.

3. Me time

There are several yogic and self-help style phrases that have made it into the list this year… and ‘me time’ is probably our favourite; it means taking a little moment out of the hustle and bustle to dedicate to yourself. Breathe deep: there is time for you.

4. Double denim

Now double denim has been well known for a long time; Billy Ray Cyrus (dad of Miley Cyrus, pop star) was one very famous supporter of the look. It means wearing denim (jeans) all over: a denim shirt with denim jeans down below. It’s a look that was popularised in the 1980s. And double denim has made a comeback. In some fashion circles it’s considered pretty cool (if you wear it right); in others it is the sign of being utterly unclassy, either way, we are talking about it.

5. Omnishambles

An all-time favourite inclusion – this was actually the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year 2012. It was first coined in British political satire ‘The Thick of It‘, by a character played by Peter Capaldi, who will soon be the new Doctor Who. Coming from the Latin omni – meaning all/ubiquitous – and shambles, meaning, well, a disaster, it’s the most enjoyable word to say.

6. Digital detox

Another digital-inspired inclusion on the list. A digital detox is in fact a reaction against the increased technology in our lives. Do you ever feel like just throwing your computer out of the window? Well a ‘digital detox’ is a slightly more health-and-money conscious way of doing it: it means taking a weekend away, without any phones, iPods, iPads, iMacs or i-things of any kind. For the rest of us, it means airplane mode and putting it in a drawer.

7. Buzzworthy

Can you guess what this means? Buzz here refers to ‘hype’ or excitement and interest around an event, product or person. And ‘worthy’ means meriting attention, or ‘worth’ giving time to. So, something ‘buzzworthy’ might be this blog post; or announcement of the new words in the Dictionary for 2013. Also, a fashion trend or new song might be considered buzzworthy; anything that causes a stir and gets people talking and sharing online and with their friends.

8. Unlike

This is a new word inspired by Facebook. So common is its usage on the social media site that it has made its way into casual speech, and now, the dictionary. The word is generated directly from a design feature on the site: ‘unlike’ is the opposite of the ‘like’ button. To ‘unlike’ someone or something is to reverse your feelings about them; to reject, or cancel, a previous friendship or connection. We’re yet to see a thumbs-down ‘unlike’ button materialise on Facebook, but now it’s made the dictionary surely that’s next?

9. Pear cider

We like this entry because it’s quite odd. Pear cider is something that has been around for some time. It is simply the alcoholic drink cider made from pears instead of apples. But its popularity and big advertising push from brands like Magners and Bulmers mean that now it is very widely known in its own right as a distinct beverage.

10. Space tourism

Space tourism is exactly as it sounds: the act of being a tourist in outer space. With entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic set to launch commercial spaceflights in 2014, this is a word that we’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future. However, with the price of a ticket currently set at $250,000 per seat, we expect it will be some time before this one really takes off!

11. Srsly

This is part of the ‘text message talk’ phenomenon, where you shorten words for speed and convenience when writing them on a mobile phone or casually online. ‘Srsly’ is shorthand for seriously, and has exactly the same meaning. Other popularised examples include ‘txt’, short for text, and ‘cos’ for because.

12. Food baby

Again, a word which has been popularised over the last few years. A food baby quite simply refers to the round, protruding stomach which can be induced by seriously overeating – which can appear, a little, to mimic the shape of a pregnant woman’s torso.

What words have we missed out? And what words have you heard being mentioned casually that you think should make it in to the 2014 English dictionary? Let us know by leaving a comment!


Wil is a writer, teacher, learning technologist and keen language learner. He’s taught English in classrooms and online for nearly 10 years, trained teachers in using classroom and web technology, and written e-learning materials for several major websites. He speaks four languages and is currently looking for another one to start learning.


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