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Ghost, Shade, And Humblebrag Are Now In The Dictionary

This is Merriam-Webster's largest-ever addition to its online dictionary, with entries and updates from all corners of the English language (and elsewhere!). We heart this.

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On Tuesday, Merriam-Webster announced that it added more than 1,000 new words and definitions to its online edition. The new entries included social media favorites "throw shade," "side-eye," and "binge-watch."

🎉🎊We just added more than 1,000 new words to the dictionary!🎉🎊 https://t.co/NhvqlXkHaP

This has become the largest-ever addition to Merriam-Webster.com.

It's added words and definitions from all corners of the English language to the online dictionary — including tech and sports terms, conversational and slang phrases, medical and scientific terminology, and political and food vocabulary.

"Online is a much faster medium than print, and we're now able to adapt and add these entries in a way that makes sense," Merriam-Webster's editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski told BuzzFeed News. "Why should we hold back?"

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The job of lexicographers (i.e., the people who make dictionaries) is revision — to watch language as it evolves and record it — so Merriam-Webster has done just that in a format that's much more forgiving than a giant printed dictionary, Sokolowski explained.

Typically, Merriam-Webster.com adds fewer than 50 new words each year. And this year's additions are significant not only because of the quantity of words, but also because they reflect "the breadth of English vocabulary and the speed with which we seek information," according to a statement on Merriam-Webster's website.

If you're wondering how a word gets added to the dictionary, Sokolowski explained that lexicographers will track and observe words using many, many spreadsheets.

Merriam-Webster / Giphy / Via giphy.com

In a nutshell, a word must hit three benchmarks: frequent use, widespread use, and meaningful use. You can read more about that here.

A great example of this process is the addition of the words "prosopagnosia," or "face blindness," which was a term popularized by the neuroscientist and writer Oliver Sacks.

Sacks's use of the word gave it more frequent and widespread use. "He made it more personal and relatable — a human issue. ... It went from the neurological journals to The New Yorker," Sokolowski explained.

There are also words that have been in the pipeline for a long time but have only recently been added as they've become more and more relevant — especially in today's political climate. "SCOTUS," "truther," and "microaggression" are just some examples.

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"There are some words from the past that are now getting added because our director of defining said, 'Let's wait a year on this,'" said Sokolowski. "We're the dictionary — we're not controversial."

"Ghost" as a verb and "face palm" were also new terms that Sokolowski and the Merriam-Webster team have been monitoring that have grown beyond social media and into common usage.

Merriam-Webster / Giphy / Via giphy.com, Merriam-Webster / Giphy / Via giphy.com

"This is kind of a big deal," Sokolowski added. "It shows that we’re still doing our core mission, which is [to] describe language as it’s used."

While Merriam-Webster does not usually release its full list of new entries — as it's an ever-changing and evolving list — you can read more about the new additions and see what other words made the cut here.

Megan Paolone is the deputy copy chief for BuzzFeed.

Contact Megan Paolone at megan.paolone@buzzfeed.com.

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