Every year, the dictionary adds new words in English. These words can come from politics, psychology, pop culture, or current slang. Check out 60 modern words that were new to the Oxford English Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2019 and 2020. We’ve also included example sentences to illustrate how they are used.
21st Century Colloquialisms
Teenagers are usually ahead of the curve when it comes to modern colloquialisms. The literary world can now catch up with the modern words for cool with these helpful dictionary additions. Here are some words that are essential to know in the 21st century.
- Angst (verb): To agonize; to fret. Usually with about, over. (“I’m angsting about that phone call.”)
- Awesomesauce (adjective): Very good or wonderful. (“This concert is awesomesauce!”)
- Bae (noun): Term of endearment for a boyfriend or girlfriend. Backronym for Before All Else. (“I love you so much, bae.”)
- Chillax (verb): To calm down and take it easy. Combination of chill and relax. (“Stop worrying about work and chillax for a minute.”)
- Easy-breezy (adjective): Relaxed, casual, informal. (“Baking a three-ingredient cake is easy-breezy.”)
- Inspo (noun): An item or idea that inspires someone. Short for inspiration. (“I made a fitness inspo board to motivate me to exercise.”)
- On-brand (adjective): Typical behavior for a brand, company, or individual personality. (“That Hawaiian shirt is so on-brand for you.”)
- Spit take (noun): A comical reaction to a comment that involves the listener spitting out their drink. (“That joke almost made me spit take!”)
- Stan (noun, verb): An enthusiastic, sometimes obsessive, fan of a trend, celebrity, or couple. Used as a combination of stalker and fan; from Eminem’s 2000 song “Stan.” (I used to stan Bella and Edward from Twilight, but now I’m stanning Bella and Jacob.”)
- Swellegant (adjective): Stylish and fashionable. A combination of swell and elegant. (“Wearing a tux makes you look swellegant.”)
- Vacay (noun): A fun, relaxing trip. Short for vacation. (“Let’s unwind and take a vacay to Palm Springs!”)
- Whatevs (pronoun): An expression of indifference or scorn. Slang for whatever. (“I don’t care what movie we watch. Whatevs.”)
- Yeesh (interjection): Expressing annoyance or disgust. (“Yeesh, you’re not wearing that tonight, are you?”)
New Political Words
The world needed some new words to describe political life in 2019. Some words, like caucus, were a long time coming, but other words are more modern terms for political situations.
- Apology tour (noun): A series of public appearances in which a public figure apologizes for misdeeds in order to restore their public image. (“The actor recently departed on an apology tour to fan conventions and public forums.”)
- Anti-suffragism (noun): The political movement dedicated to preventing the extension of women’s right to vote. (“A new element of misogyny involves a strong belief in anti-suffragism.”)
- Caucus (noun, verb): A closed meeting between people in the same political party to decide who to nominate for president. (“The Iowa caucus is the first event of the presidential primary election cycle.”)
- Chop-chop (noun, second meaning): Nigerian expression that describes political bribery and corruption, particularly when involving misappropriation of funds. (“The senator was found guilty for the massive chop-chop that involved his campaign finance violations.”)
- Deep state (noun): The theory that a secret, interconnected government organization runs the entire political agenda. (“I think the deep state is to blame for the delay in my tax return.”)
- Omnishambles (noun): A political situation that has been mismanaged or miscalculated, resulting in chaos. (“The new initiative proposal has turned out to be an omnishambles thanks to the press secretary’s mistakes.”)
The second decade of the 21st century taught us more about ourselves and other people. The field of psychology has faced new challenges and insights, many of which are reflected in the new dictionary words of 2019 and 2020.
- Confirmation bias (noun): One’s tendency to interpret new information to confirm their pre-existing biases and beliefs. (“Don’t let confirmation bias prevent you from reading news articles objectively.”)
- Hoarding disorder (noun): Psychological disorder in which patients experience a compulsion to collect and keep items, and extreme distress when parting with their items. (“A person with hoarding disorder may not be able to move through their home due to the accumulation of personal possessions.”)
- Neurodivergent (adjective): Describes a difference in mental or neurological functioning from typical or expected activity; usually used to designate a person with autism spectrum disorder. (“A neurodivergent child may prefer watching movies with the lights on and the sound on a lower setting.”)
- Safe space (noun): A physical or emotional place where people can exist without fear of discrimination or judgment. (“This therapy session is a safe space for you to talk about your feelings.”)
- Savant syndrome (noun): A syndrome in which an individual with an intellectual disability or developmental delay exhibits advanced or unusual skill and/or memory. (“Savant syndrome enables Brian to make large calculations very quickly.”)
Modern Identity Words
Being able to identify a person based on that person’s preference seems natural. 2019 saw the first few examples of identity-based words appear in official dictionaries. From preferred pronouns to intersectionality, there are plenty of ways to address a person based on their preference.
- Gender nonconforming (adjective): Exhibiting behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits that do not correspond with the traits typically associated with one's assigned sex. (“I consider myself gender nonconforming because I don’t like wearing dresses or keeping my hair long.”)
- Inclusive (adjective): An effort to include all participants, regardless of ability, gender identification, race, age, or other attributes. (“We want our workplace to be an inclusive, nondiscriminatory place.”)
- Latin@/Latinx (noun, adjective): A person with descent from a Latin American country. Term is gender neutral, as opposed to the male “Latino” and female “Latina.” (“The candidate depends on votes from the Latinx population to stay in the lead.”)
- Misgendered (adjective): A person who was assigned the incorrect gender at birth. (“Using the incorrect pronoun to address a misgendered person can be hurtful and offensive.”)
- They (singular pronoun): Gender-neutral third-person singular objective pronoun. Corresponds to the subjective pronoun “them.” (“Every person should choose the book they prefer.”)
- Zir/hir (pronoun): Gender-neutral third-person singular objective pronoun. Corresponds to the subjective pronoun “ze.” (“Have you asked Skylar about zir new house?”)
Current Pop Culture Words
Popular culture always influences a population’s vocabulary. Here are some ways that film and television have added words to the dictionary this year.
- Bechdel test (noun): Evaluates a movie or show’s representation of women based on conversational criteria from the work. (“I love that movie, but it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test because the women only talk to each other about men.”)
- EGOT (noun): Status term for a person who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award. (“John Legend is the most recent EGOT winner after he won an Emmy for ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar.’”)
- Jedi (adjective, noun): A skilled, religious warrior from the fictional universe of Star Wars. (“I can tell what you’re thinking, like I have Jedi mind powers.”)
- Lightsaber (noun): A sword-like weapon with a strong beam of light from the fictional universe of Star Wars. (“Luke and Darth Vader engaged in a lightsaber duel until Luke was cornered.”)
- MacGyver (verb): Using everyday items to create a tool that gets you out of a tricky situation. Named for Richard Dean Anderson’s character in the 1985 television show MacGyver. (“It’s okay, I MacGyvered my side window back together with duct tape and a popsicle stick.”)
Business Words and Their Meanings
The 2008 recession affected more than the business and finance sector – it changed the way the world talks about work. At the risk of mentionitis, check out these new business-related words that now appear in the dictionary.
- Bicycle-sharing (adjective): Self-service rental business in which customers can rent shared bicycles for a short period of time. (“The new bicycle-sharing company has reduced local street traffic.”)
- Cannabusiness (noun): Companies involved with the production and sale of cannabis or cannabis-related products. (“Recent marijuana legislation has made it easier to open a cannabusiness in town.”)
- Gamification (noun): Making a low-interest activity more entertaining by adding game features such as point values, level goals, and prizes. (“The training materials included gamification options to increase participation.”)
- Gig economy (noun): Economic activity in which jobs are completed by freelance or temporary workers. Also known as “on-demand economy.” (“Knowing how to work remotely is important in today’s gig economy.”)
- Haircut (noun): A somewhat substantial financial loss. (“We really took a haircut in the fourth quarter, but we’ll make up the deficit next year.”)
- Mentionitis (noun): Continually mentioning a topic to the point of annoying a listener. (“Craig’s got a bad case of mentionitis when it comes to his crush on Vanessa.”)
- Onboarding (noun): The process of bringing a new employee up to speed with a company’s norms and organization. (“When Tyler finished his onboarding, he’ll be able to take customer phone calls without a supervisor present.”)
- Schmoozefest (noun): A professional or social event in which the goal is to make connections between people. (“The conference is going to be a huge schmoozefest where everyone networks and no one attends the seminars.”)
- Solopreneur (noun): A person who starts and runs a business alone. Combination of solo and entrepreneur. (“Even though a solopreneur works on their own, making connections with other business owners is important.”)
Advancing Technology Words
Even a written dictionary can’t escape 21st-century technology. Words that describe technological advances in the last several years can now be found alongside more traditional words in the dictionary.
- Cryptocurrency (noun): An electronic, encrypted currency. (“It’s easy to use cryptocurrency to handle online commerce and purchases.”)
- Cybersafety (noun): Staying safe when using the Internet. (“Practice cybersafety by never giving out personal account information or any of your passwords.”)
- Droning (adjective, noun, verb): Using a pilotless aircraft to conduct remote military operations. (“The droning mission resulted in maximum damage with zero civilian deaths, making it a tactical success.”)
- E-bike (noun): A bicycle with an electric motor. (“I can get to school much faster on my e-bike than on my regular bike.”)
- E-waste (noun, second meaning): Unnecessary or low-quality electronic content. (“All the e-waste in my inbox goes straight to the spam folder.”)
- Nomophobia (noun): The fear of being too far away from a mobile phone or mobile phone services. (“You’d think that my cousin has nomophobia since she never puts her phone down.”)
- Screen time (noun): The amount of time a user is exposed to a television, phone, tablet, or gaming device screen. (“Studies show that reducing screen time for young children leads to stronger cognitive connections later in life.”)
- Segway (noun): Type of a two-wheeled motorized vehicle in which the driver steers while standing. (“The Segway tour would enable us to see the city in a short amount of time than if we walked.”)
New Insults in the 21st Century
Want to insult someone in the most modern way possible? Check out these 21st-century insults that are now available to learn in an everyday dictionary.
- Crudball (noun): An unpleasant person. (“My neighbor is being a crudball by complaining about every part of my yard.”)
- Dorkus (noun): A foolish or clumsy person. (“You look like a dorkus when you dance like that!”)
- Jerkweed (noun): An obnoxious person. (“Stop teasing me; you’re such a jerkweed!”)
- Jerkface (noun): An irritating person. (“I hope my annoying coworker doesn’t come to the party. He can be a jerkface in social situations.”)
- Noob (noun): An inexperienced beginner. Originally from online and gaming contexts, short for “newbie.” (“Don’t act like a noob at this meeting; I want people to think we’re professional.”)
- Schmucko (noun): A stupid person. (“I have a question but I’m afraid I’ll look like a schmucko for not knowing the answer.”)
- Snowflake: A person who expects to be treated as if their needs are unique and special. Often synonymous with oversensitive. (“That show is funny, not offensive. Don’t be such a snowflake.”)
- Weak sauce (adjective): Pathetic, bad. Opposite of awesomesauce. (“That throw was weak sauce! Try to make it into the end zone!”)
More Vocabulary Resources
Don’t stop now – there are lots of ways to improve your vocabulary! Try out these tips that help you add words to your everyday speech. You can also choose vocabulary strategies that best fit your learning style.