'Retweet' and 'woot' make Oxford dictionary debut

magnetic words The Concise Oxford Dictionary studies new words as they spread into common usage

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Woot! Technology-inspired words are among the 400 added to the newest Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

They include retweet - to pass on a message on Twitter, and textspeak - a language that typically young people use to talk lyk dis.

Other words such as cyberbullying and sexting also make their debut.

"These additions are just carrying on the tradition of a dictionary that has always sought to be progressive," said OED editor Angus Stevenson.

"Social networking sites have created a real language of the net," he explained in a blog post.

"We've noticed that new words come into currency much more quickly as a result of the internet, as people see friends, or friends of friends using new words and copy them."

He said that words like woot or w00t - an exclamation of triumph and success - can originate abroad but rapidly gain mass usage across the rest of the English-speaking world.

Start Quote

I don't know why people can't just say 'hurrah' but maybe I'm being old fashioned.”

End Quote Angus Stevenson Editor, Concise Oxford English Dictionary

"The expression 'woot' began in America but was picked up very quickly by people in Britain, as a result of the internet breaking down international boundaries," said Mr Stevenson.

New speak

Launched in 1911, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary was intended to be an evolving, modern catalogue of words.

Its first edition, which is 100 years old this month, included popular slang terms such as shirty, parky and piffle.

Emerging technology has always been a big driver for new words. The 1911 edition included biplane - a aeroplane with two sets of wings, and marconigram - a message sent via radio.

Other pre-existing words have had their meanings shaped by popular tech culture.

Words for 2011

  • Retweet Pronunciation:/riːˈtwiːt/
  • verb:(on the social networking service Twitter) repost or forward (a message posted by another user). Noun:a reposted or forwarded message on Twitter
  • Sexting Pronunciation:/ˈsɛkstɪŋ/
  • noun: the sending of sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone
  • Woot Pronunciation:/wuːt/
  • exclamation: used to express elation, enthusiasm, or triumph
  • Cyberbullying Pronunciation:/ˈsʌɪbəˌbʊliɪŋ/
  • noun: the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature
  • Follower Pronunciation:/ˈfɒləʊə/
  • noun: someone who is tracking a particular person, group, or organization on a social networking site

In the most recent edition, follower has been amended to also mean "someone who is tracking a particular person, group, etc. on a social networking site".

Meanwhile, friend has been redefined by the Facebook generation to simply mean someone you regularly interact with online.

Senior editor of the dictionary, Fiona McPherson said that it was important to make sure new words have entered common usage.

"First and foremost it's about the evidence. So as long as people are using it and we can find independent examples."

She explained that independent could mean appearances in newspapers and books.

"Some words are flash in the pan, but you can normally gauge by using your own judgement whether or not something is going to have a life," added Ms McPherson.

Despite the embracing of new, hip words and phrases, the editors of the dictionary openly admit they are not always enthusiastic users of the new lexicon.

"I don't know why people can't just say hurrah but maybe I'm being old fashioned," said Mr Stevenson.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    FUBAR - adjective - pronounced "phoobar". This is one example of common usage not yet in the OED but. as a contemporay expression, no doubt will be in due course. An example of its application is the evolution of the BBC HYS format from its excellent initial design and operation to that of today. The word denotes critical deterioration in functionality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    14 Minutes ago
    @37 - This started under Labour, the present government seem to be incapable of reversing their decisions -

    New words going into the dictionary started under labour?

    I've read some utter paranoid tripe on these pages over the years, but that deserves some kind of award.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    @37 - This started under Labour, the present government seem to be incapable of reversing their decisions - they seem more focussed on reversing their own decisions.

    It's a general left wing thing, and it's a sign this current government has sold out its own principles to the Lib Dems, they don't speak for me, too flaky and full of the same PC-nonsense spouted by the last shambles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    33. What on earth has 'The Left' got to do with technological phrases going in the Oxford English Dictionary? I'm not keen on a lot of the new phrases but its apparent they have their roots in new technology - computing, texting etc -rather than some sort of conspiracy from any particular political party. I think you'll find we've got a tory/coalition government now, in any case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Pestonary- used to explain the demise of the 400 word character limit on his blog, but not applicable to all blogs on the beeb.
    HYSing- an endangered format, once a collecting place for many and varied discussions, seen by some at beeb to be dead as a dodo, but still hanging on in there by its fingernails, at least when it suits the them.
    COED some suggestions for your perusal.


Comments 5 of 40


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