01 May 2014
Social and online engagement have prompted the Macmillan Dictionary team to publish their first update of new words and definitions of 2014. In addition to the usual suspects from the technology and medicine world, it shows how social media and lifestyle trends are driving linguistic change faster than ever.

This time, the reach of social and online media means Internet-friendly abbreviations and words such as rents, mwah, soz, hater and totes have made an entry. They aren’t only entering daily English conversation, but are appearing far and wide – enough to merit an entry in a dictionary with a truly global audience. Primarily designed for non-native speakers of English, it is also used by many native speakers.

Editor-in-Chief Michael Rundell notes that “language is changing at an incredible pace. As one of the only quality dictionaries to have gone wholly online, we can respond rapidly to changes in the language, wherever they come from.”

Macmillan’s online crowdsourced “Open Dictionary”, based on words suggested by members of the public is one of these sources. The expert dictionary team decided a number of these submissions should enter the main Macmillan Dictionary in this latest update: from chainwatching (to watch multiple episodes of a TV series in one go) and friending (connecting via social media), to social issues that are becoming more prevalent, such as zombie company or zero-hours contract (part of the aftermath of the global recession), or cyberbullying (the subject of many recent news stories).

Definitions of familiar words sometimes need updating too. For instance, this time, husband and wife get new definitions to take account of same-sex marriage.

With words falling in and out of fashion more quickly than ever, a unique Macmillan feature – of great value to language learners – is to identify a “core” vocabulary of 7,500 key words. These are the most frequent words in English, selected from the tens of thousands of words in the dictionary, and show what’s on trend and what’s now vintage vocabulary. Interestingly, many of these reflect social change, just as some brand new entries do. In the current update single parent, fossil fuel, and texting have joined the top 7,500, while bachelor, cassette, and personal stereo have been demoted as they become less frequently used.

Which of the new additions will stand the test of time? The Macmillan Dictionary team will continue to monitor the changing language and the next update is not far off.

Here is the link to the Macmillan Dictionary: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/
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