WASHINGTON — This year, more than 400 new words and senses, or meanings, have been added to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
Executive Editor Steve Kleinedler says that if you’re interested in where a word came from, his dictionary can be more helpful than others.
“Some of our competitors will focus on when a word entered English. We’re more focused on the path that it took, going back as far possible.”
Kleinedler won’t be surprised if the newly added words are not new to you, saying, “We try not to enter vocabulary until we think it’s going to stick around. So as a result, we might take a little longer to enter a term than some of our competitors. But that’s because we don’t want to put something in and end up taking it out in a year or two.”
One of the words added in 2016 is “spaetzle,” a pasta or dumpling dish of German origin.
“If you’re from a part of the country where there was a lot of German immigration in the 18[00s] and 1900s, this is a very obvious food word, to the extent that hosts I’ve spoken to in that area are questioning, ‘Why is it just going in now? Why hasn’t it been there for a long time?’ And [for] other hosts from areas that didn’t see a lot of German immigration, it’s a completely new word for them,” said Kleinedler.
Also added this year is “glamping,” or camping in glamorous or luxurious conditions. “Five years ago I would have thought ‘Eh, this won’t go in,’ but it stuck around and it’s grown. So in it goes,” Kleinedler added.
A change was made in the usage notes for the word “xenophobia.”
“This is an example of what we use our usage panel for. The American Heritage Dictionary has a usage panel consisting of about 170 linguists and writers and poets and playwrights and journalists, crossword puzzle makers [and] people who use the language as part of their day-to-day job,” Kleinedler said.
Members of the panel were asked which of the two common pronunciations of xenophobia was more acceptable to them: the one with a “short e” in the first syllable or the one with a “long e.”
“The panel overwhelmingly found both forms to be acceptable, and slightly more preferred the ZEE-nophobia pronunciation to ZEN-ophobia,” he said.
Other words added this year include:
- Katana: A long, single-edge sword for use with two hands, traditionally worn by samurai.
- Maki: Rolled sushi that typically consists of vinegar-flavored rice and cooked or raw fish, wrapped in a sheet of nori, and usually cut into bite-size pieces.
- Microbead: A tiny plastic pellet, usually less than 1 millimeter in diameter, used as an abrasive in personal hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. Microbeads in personal-care products have been banned in the United States because they contribute to water pollution.
- Poke: A Hawaiian salad or appetizer traditionally consisting of cubed raw fish, often yellowfin tuna, that is marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil, and mixed with diced onions, sesame seeds, and ginger.
- Ransomware: Malware that disables the normal operation of a computer until money or other ransom is paid to the person or organization responsible for the malware.
- Showrunner: A person who has creative control over a broadcast series, as on television, and who manages its day-to-day operations.
- Zika: A flavivirus that is transmitted primarily by aedes mosquitoes and that causes a mild disease with symptoms that include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Infection by the Zika virus in a pregnant woman can cause microcephaly or other brain defects in her infant. the virus can also be transmitted via sexual contact and from mother to child. Also called Zika virus.