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Dictionary attack!

Did you spend part of your staycation this year watching the World Cup and tweeting about the infuriating sound of the vuvuzela? A lot of people did. These words are now so familiar that it’s easy to forget how recently they were coined – staycation is first recorded in 2005, while Twitter wasn’t set up until 2006, yet has already spawned other new terms such as hashtag and tweetup.

The new third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English (ODE) has just been published, and you can explore it on this site right now. Just click through to see all the definitions of the new words mentioned below.

In with the new …

In all, there are more than 2,000 new terms, including 1,200 new words, making the new edition stuffed as full as a turducken – a roast dish consisting of a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey.

By the way, dictionary attack describes a technique used by computer hackers to generate potential passwords: the method uses a large set of words, as found in a dictionary – which is why your password should use numbers and symbols as well as letters. Other computer-related new entries include paywall and freemium, the name for that familiar Internet practice of offering basic services free of charge while charging for access to more advanced features.

There have been plenty of weighty matters since the last edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English. The credit crunch or financial crisis, when debts and assets turned toxic, has brought us into contact with financial terms previously known only by the keener economists – terms such as quantitative easing (the introduction of new money into the money supply), spot-buy, malinvestment, and overleveraged.

Conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan produced words such as surge (a major deployment of forces to reinforce existing troops), exit strategy, and waterboarding, while concern for the environment gave us carbon capture and storage, geoengineering (manipulation of environmental processes in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming), and persistent organic pollutant, or POP.

But let’s not start overthinking, or catastrophizing – viewing a situation as much worse than it actually is. Don’t be a buzzkill or fussbudget, or a bunch of sheeple: why not have a night out? Girls, avoid a matchy-matchy look by slipping on an LBD. Those guys are looking good, but maybe it’s just the beer goggles you’re now wearing. Anyway, even if you suffer a wardrobe malfunction after being defriended on the Interweb, ignore the haters and just chillax or take a chill pill!

Facts and figures

  • The first edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English came out in 1998, and the second in 2003 (revised edition in 2005). The new edition contains nearly 100,000 headwords, including 11,000 proper names, and some 350,000 words, phrases, and definitions.
  • New words in the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English are drawn from analysis of the two-billion-word Oxford English Corpus and from our worldwide Reading Programme, to ensure that the dictionary remains at the leading edge of language research.

Get your hands on a copy of the book

Buy the book and get a whole year’s free access to the premium version of Oxford Dictionaries Online – which not only features the very latest words but also offers:

  • audio pronunciations
  • a huge, sense-linked thesaurus with over 600,000 synonyms and antonyms
  • 1.9 million extra examples

At only £39.99 for the book and a year’s subscription, it’s positively bargainous

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