How are new English words discovered? And how do you use new words?
A new English word gets into a dictionary when it is used by many people. And all these people agree that it means the same thing. New words are used in conversation first. One person uses a word, then others pick it up. As a result, its use spreads. The more people use it, the more likely it will be noticed by dictionary editors, or lexicographers. The people work at dictionaries like Merriam-Webster or the Oxford English Dictionary.
So, that doesn’t mean that all the new words in English are widely used in everyday life. Some are, many of them are not. For example, some new words are very specific to a particular occupation. Dentists might use the new word amelogenesis which means “the formation of tooth enamel by ameloblasts.”
There are also words you already know. For instance, the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary added new English words like banana bread, LOL and plant-based.
Sometimes even slang, like LOL, makes it into the dictionaries as a new English word. Slang is very informal language or specific words used by a group of people. Usually you’ll hear slang in spoken language. You can also come across it in SMS or social media. However, you don’t use slang in formal written work. But, when a word is added to the dictionary as an official English word, you can also use it in written form, for example in your IELTS Writing test.
|New English Word||Meaning|
|A-game||One’s highest level of performance|
|ambigue||An ambiguous statement or expression.|
|Anglosphere||English-speaking countries considered collectively (the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Ireland).|
|anti-suffragism||Opposition to the extension of the right to vote in political elections to women; the political movement dedicated to this.|
|Aperol||A proprietary name for an orange-coloured Italian aperitif flavoured with gentian, rhubarb, and a variety of herbs and roots.|
|April Fool’s||April Fool’s Day (1 April), a day on which tricks or hoaxes are traditionally perpetrated|
|ar||Used to express a range of emotions or responses, esp. affirmation, assent, or agreement.|
|arr||In humorous representations of the speech of pirates expressing approval, triumph, warning, etc.|
|assault weapon||A weapon designed for use in a large-scale military assault, esp. one used to attack a fortified or well-defended location.|
|athleisure||Casual, comfortable clothing or footwear designed to be suitable for both exercise and everyday wear|
|Aucklander||A native or inhabitant of city or region of Auckland, New Zealand.|
|awedde||Overcome with anger, madness, or distress; insane, mentally disturbed.|
|awe-inspiringly||So impressively, spectacularly, or formidably as to arouse or inspire awe.|
|awesomesauce||Extremely good; excellent.|
|awfulize||To class as awful or terrible|
|awfy||Terrible, dreadful; remarkable or notable.|
|awfy||As simple intensive; very, exceedingly, extremely.|
|bidie-in||A person who lives with his or her partner in a non-marital relationship; a cohabiting partner.|
|bigsie||Having an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance; arrogant, pretentious, conceited.|
|bok||A South African|
|bukateria||A roadside restaurant or street stall with a seating area, selling cooked food at low prices.|
|by-catch||A catch of unwanted fish|
|cab sav||Red wine made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape|
|cancel culture||Call for the withdrawal of support from a public figure, usually in response to an accusation of a socially unacceptable action or comment.|
|chicken finger||A narrow strip of chicken meat, esp. from the breast, coated in breadcrumbs or batter and deep-fried.|
|chicken noodle soup||A soup made with chicken and noodles, sometimes popularly regarded as a remedy for all ailments or valued for its restorative properties|
|chickie||Used as a term of endearment, especially for a child or woman|
|chipmunky||Resembling or characteristic of a chipmunk, typically with reference to a person having prominent cheeks or a perky, mischievous character.|
|chuddies||Short trousers, shorts. Now it usually means underwear; underpants.|
|contact tracing||The practice of identifying and monitoring individuals who may have had contact with an infectious person|
|contactless||Not involving contact (physical and technological meanings of contactless are being used much more frequently).|
|coulrophobia||Extreme or irrational fear of clowns|
|Covid-19||An acute respiratory illness in humans caused by a coronavirus, which is capable of producing severe symptoms and death, esp. in the elderly|
|deepfake||An image or recording that has been convincingly altered to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said|
|de-extinction||The (proposed or imagined) revival of an extinct species, typically by cloning or selective breeding.|
|deleter||A person who or thing which deletes something.|
|delicense||To deprive (a person, business, vehicle, etc.) of a license providing official permission to operate|
|denialism||The policy or stance of denying the existence or reality of something, esp. something which is supported by the majority of scientific evidence.|
|denialist||A person who denies the existence or reality of something, esp. something which is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence|
|destigmatizing||The action or process of removing the negative connotation or social stigma associated with something|
|dof||Stupid, dim-witted; uninformed, clueless.|
|droning||The action of using a military drone or a similar commercially available device|
|e-bike||An electric bike|
|eco-anxiety||A state of stress caused by concern for the earth’s environment|
|enoughness||The quality or fact of being enough; sufficiency, adequacy.|
|Epidemic curve||A visual representation in the form of a graph or chart depicting the onset and progression of an outbreak of disease in a particular population|
|e-waste||Worthless or inferior electronic text or content|
|fantoosh||Fancy, showy, flashy; stylish, sophisticated; fashionable, exotic. Often used disparagingly, implying ostentation or pretentiousness.|
|forehead thermometer||A thermometer that is placed on, passed over, or pointed at the forehead to measure a person’s body temperature.|
|hair doughnut||A doughnut-shaped sponge or similar material used as the support for a doughnut bun or similar updo|
|hench||Of a person having a powerful, muscular physique; fit, strong.|
|hir||Used as a gender-neutral possessive adjective (his/her/hir watch). In later use often corresponding to the subjective pronoun ze (he/she/ze wears a watch).|
|hygge||A Danish word for a quality of cosiness that comes from doing simple things such as lighting candles, baking, or spending time at home with your family|
|influencer||Someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave:|
|jerkweed||An obnoxious, detestable, or stupid person (esp. a male). Often as a contemptuous form of address.|
|kvell||Meaning to talk admiringly, enthusiastically, or proudly about something|
|kvetchy||Given to or characterized by complaining or criticizing; ill-tempered, irritable.|
|LOL||To laugh out loud; to be amused.|
|macaron||A confection consisting of two small, round (usually colourful) biscuits with a meringue-like consistency|
|MacGyver||To construct, fix, or modify (something) in an improvised or inventive way, typically by making use of whatever items are at hand|
|mama put||A street vendor, typically a woman, selling cooked food at low prices from a handcart or stall. Also a street stall or roadside restaurant.|
|mentionitis||A tendency towards repeatedly or habitually mentioning something (esp. the name of a person one is infatuated with), regardless of its relevance to the topic of conversation|
|microtarget||To direct tailored advertisements, political messages, etc., at (people) based on detailed information about them|
|misgendering||The action or fact of mistaking or misstating a person’s gender, esp. of addressing or referring to a transgender person in terms that do not reflect…|
|next tomorrow||The day after tomorrow.|
|oat milk||A milky liquid prepared from oats, used as a drink and in cooking|
|onboarding||The action or process of integrating a new employee into an organisation, team, etc|
|patient zero||Is defined as a person identified as the first to become infected with an illness or disease in an outbreak|
|pronoid||A person who is convinced of the goodwill of others towards himself or herself|
|puggle||A young or baby echidna or platypus.|
|puggle||A dog cross-bred from a pug and a beagle; such dogs considered collectively as a breed.|
|quilling||The action or practice of bribing electors in order to gain their votes, especially by providing free alcohol|
|rat tamer||Colloquial meaning for a psychologist or psychiatrist|
|report||An employee accountable to a particular manager|
|sadfishing||Colloquial the practice adopted by some people, especially on social media, of exaggerating claims about their emotional problems to generate sympathy|
|sandboxing||The restriction of a piece of software or code to a specific environment in a computer system in which it can be run securely|
|schnitty||Colloquial a schnitzel, especially a chicken schnitzel|
|Segway||A proprietary name for a two-wheeled motorised personal vehicle|
|self-isolate||To isolate oneself from others deliberately; to undertake self-imposed isolation for a period of time|
|shero||A female hero; a heroine.|
|single-use||Designed to be used once and then disposed of or destroyed|
|skunked||Drunk, intoxicated. In later use also under the influence of marijuana|
|slow-walk||To delay or prevent the progress of (something) by acting in a deliberately slow manner|
|social distancing||The action of practice of maintaining a specified physical distance from other people, or of limiting access to and contact between people|
|stepmonster||Colloquial (humorous) (sometimes derogatory) a stepmother|
|tag rugby||A non-contact, simplified form of rugby in which the removal of a tag attached to the ball carrier constitutes a tackle|
|theonomous||Ruled, governed by, or subject to the authority of God|
|thirstry||Showing a strong desire for attention, approval, or publicity.|
|title bar||A horizontal bar at the top of a program window, used to display information such as the name of the program in use, the file or web page that is active.|
|topophilia||Love of, or emotional connection to, a particular place or physical environment|
|truthiness||A seemingly truthful quality not supported by facts or evidence|
|UFO||UnFinished Object: In knitting, sewing, quilting, etc.: an unfinished piece of work|
|unfathom||To come to understand (something mysterious, puzzling, or complicated); to solve (a mystery, etc.)|
|weak sauce||That lacks power, substance, or credibility; pathetic, worthless; stupid.|
|WFH||An abbreviation for “working from home.”|
|WIP||Work in progress|
|zoodle||A spiralised strand of zucchini, sometimes used as a substitute for pasta|
When you’ve read of list of new English words, you may have found some that you already know. Sometimes we hear these words a lot in the media before they make it into a dictionary. Like “contact tracing.” Yet, other words are less well-known. So, how do you use these words in a sentence?
Let’s start with a strange one: MacGyver. We always capitalise the word MacGyver because it derives from the name of a character in an American television show. You guessed it: the main character’s name is Angus MacGyver. This show ran from 1985 to 1992. MacGyver always managed to get himself out of tricky or dangerous situations by making an object or repairing an item with only the items at hand. So, when you MacGyver something it has been thrown together in an ingenious and improvised fashion. Have a look at the YouTube video below and try to remember the last time you MacGyvered something.
Within the past five years, the rise of “cancel culture” and the idea of cancelling someone have become topics of debate. But what exactly does it mean? So, remember when a celebrity or other public figure does or says something offensive? A public backlash, often fuelled by politically progressive social media, ensues. After this, people call to “cancel” the person — that is, to effectively end their career. This can be done through boycotts of their work or disciplinary action from an employer. In 2019 alone, the list of people who faced being cancelled included alleged sexual predators like R. Kelly; and comedians like Kevin Hart and Shane Gillis, who each faced public backlash after social media users unearthed homophobic and racist jokes they’d made in the past.
So, cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (cancelling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.
We all know the traditional meaning of the word thirsty: that feeling you have when a need to drink. Easy, right? But, it is also meaning something else. More recently, people started to use the word thirsty to mean “having or showing a strong desire for something.” Also, you can use it when you see people who need to gain fame and admiration through social media such as Instagram by posting “selfie” pictures to boost the self-esteem. They are thirsty for attention. Or, those suggestive, desperate-to-please selfies that people post to social media to elicit the certain response. We know this type of image as a “thirst trap.”
But wait: you’ve heard “thirsty” use in this way well before 2020? You’re right. The New York Times shows that this meaning of the word thirsty goes back a while. However, lexicographers only added this meaning of the word to dictionaries only recently.
The experts at the Merrian-Webster dictionary explain that new words like “hashtag” and “selfie” get a lot of attention as new words. But, many of the new words are just new meanings of words that are already in our language. For example, think of the recent meanings of “mouse” and “cookie.” They have nothing to do with rodents or baked goods. A verb that we use every day, “access,” was first entered in dictionaries in 1973. And they added a specific reference to computers was in 1993. These words may not make headlines, but they’re just as important as words that are newly coined.
We’ve shown you the 100 New English Words. But, most words don’t start off in dictionaries around the world. Some of these new international words we use in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the UK (and even in non-English speaking countries) originate from slang or popular usage.
Slang words or phrases develop over time. Some die out because nobody uses them anymore. Others don’t get used because people move on to a new slang word. Sometimes, slang words are so popular that they are absorbed into the common language. So, that’s how language grows and evolves over time. New words are added to the dictionary. At the same time, old ones disappear. What about new slang words in 2019 and 2020? Check them out.
Can I use new English words in the IELTS Writing and Speaking test?
The IELTS Speaking test is supposed to represent a normal conversation between two people. So, you should avoid very formal language. For example, you don’t usually “furthermore” or “moreover” in every-day conversations. However, you probably also don’t want to use overly informal language. Some slang is probably too informal: if you tell your examiner “my friend threw me some shade,” he or she may not understand what you mean.
You can get a high IELTS band score if you show the ability to use idiomatic expressions appropriately, but perhaps stick with common idiomatic expressions that are well-known. We’ve provided some helpful lists with our Idioms A-Z: Explained.