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Best New Words of 2009

Best New Words of 2009

Every year, the friendly lexicographers at Merriam-Webster add a bunch of new words to their dictionary. Sometimes a few of the new words are actually old words that for some reason were never formally included in the big book. Others are true neologisms, fresh out of the mouths (or off of the computer keyboards) of people trying to articulate the crazy times in which they (and we) live. This year, in light of certain romantic trends (and the recent Tiger Woods scandal), we were pretty sure the verb sext was going to make the cut. It did not, but only because it’s already in the dictionary. (It's a 15th-century term referencing the sixth of the canonical hours, a rather complex Christian prayer cycle. Not the definition we were hoping for, frankly.)

But that doesn't mean 2009 was a year without exciting new words. Out of the more than 100 new words added to the M-W dictionary this year, here are our favorites:

Definition: One who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.
In context: “When Heinrich got to college, he realized that most of his buddies from the high school squash team were actually frenemies.”
Related word we hope to see included next year: Frenemy with benefits

Definition: A vacation spent at home or nearby.
What it really means: You are poor.
Related word we want to see included next year: “Second homeless,” describing those down-and-out souls who have only one home after being forced to sell their vacation chalet in the Alps.

Memory foam
Definition: A dense polyurethane foam that becomes more pliable when in contact with heat.
What we wish it meant: A whipped cream-like substance sprayed into the brain to improve recall.
Related word we want to see included next year: Forgetful felt

Definition: A word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung.
Origin of its obscure name: A Scottish ballad named “The Bonnie Earl O’ Moray.” When read aloud, its final line, “laid him on the green,” is often misheard as “Lady Mondegreen.”
Another awesome mondegreen: “Scuse me while I kiss this guy” (“kiss the sky”)  from Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze.
And one more: “There’s a bathroom on the right” (“there's a bad moon on the rise”) from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising.

Sock puppet
Definition: A false online identity used for deceptive purposes.
Our favorite sock puppet: Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey. Over the course of seven years, he used a fake name to brag about himself (in the third person!) and his company on an internet message board. He also spent a lot of time bashing Wild Oats, a competitor that Whole Foods later purchased for more than $500 million.
Related word we want to see included next year: Glove puppet: a puppet that comes to life while you are sleeping, logs into your Facebook account, and sends inappropriate messages to all your friends. (Remember, people: Puppets are bad. Always keep yours locked in the freezer at night.)

Zip line
Definition: a cable suspended above an incline to which a pulley and harness are attached for a rider.
Alternative names: Yippee string, fun glidey rope
Related word we want to see included next year: Alpine slide

Check out more of M-W’s new words here. What are your favorites? And what new words do you think they missed?

Related Post: These Are a Few of Our Favorite Words

Topics: Life
Tags: new words, best of, 2009

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