Learn when a word was first used in print with Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler feature

While looking something else up, I came across Merriam-Webster's new online "Time Traveler" feature today. It allows you to browse to see what words were first used in print for a particular year.

For example:

"Idiot box" was first used in 1955, "granola" in 1970, and "cyberpunk" in 1983. "Bloodletting" was used before the 12th century and "bootleg" first appeared in 1634.

It's a lot of fun to play with but, according to Merriam-Webster, there are the factors to keep in mind when using it:

The date may not represent the very oldest sense of the word. Many obsolete, archaic, and uncommon senses have been excluded from this dictionary, and such senses have not been taken into consideration in determining the date.

The date most often does not mark the very first time that the word was used in English. Many words were in spoken use for decades or even longer before they passed into the written language. The date is for the earliest written or printed use that the editors have been able to discover.

The date is subject to change. Many of the dates provided will undoubtedly be updated as evidence of still earlier use emerges.

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How do new words get in the dictionary?

Kory Stamper, author of the new book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries describes three criteria Merriam-Webster uses for inclusion of words like truther, binge-watch, photobomb and the 1,000 other words that make the cut in a typical year. Read the rest

Merriam-Webster adds "genderqueer" to dictionary

Merriam-Webster is to add "genderqueer" to its unabridged English dictionary; also "cisgender".

Cisgender: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.

Genderqueer: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity cannot be categorized as solely male or female.

Which pronoun? TIP: Whichever they want. Read the rest