The English language is constantly evolving, with new terms appearing daily. A lot of the new words spring up in the tech sector. Most vanish without a trace, but some become circulated so widely that practically everyone ends up using them.
These words eventually get accepted by the official gatekeepers of what is considered ‘proper’ English – such as the maker’s of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Merriam-Webster is the oldest and most highly reputed dictionary of American English. And this year, they’ve canonized 13 new words coined by the tech industry. Here they are, to resolve all of your future Scrabble disputes.
No more overtime, personal initiative, or taking on colleagues’ tasks for free. If you show up on time, do the work assigned to you, and leave on time, you’re quiet quitting. Or, as Merriam-Webster now defines this new word:
to do the minimum amount of work required for a job
The second new tech word that Merriam-Webster added is ‘large language model’ (LLM). These models have become ubiquitous in 2023 and serve as the basis for generative AI models like ChatGPT, Jasper, and Bard. They harness humongous amounts of text to identify patterns and imitate them to re-create natural language. This, in turn, lets businesses delegate some boilerplate tasks.
a language model that utilizes deep methods on an extremely large data set as a basis for predicting and constructing natural-sounding text
Next up among the ranks of the new words joining the dictionary is ‘microtransaction’, which any gamer will know:
an online transaction involving a small amount of currency
especially: such a transaction made within a video game (as to purchase exclusive content or competitive advantage)
Phishing has become such a staple online threat that most people are on their guard when opening their email inbox to see an email from a Nigerian prince. Well, that prince has learned to text. Meet smishing, the messaging-based equivalent of phishing. Here’s Merriam-Webster’s official definition:
the practice of sending text messages to someone in order to trick the person into revealing personal or confidential information which can then be used for criminal purposes
Have you ever stayed up well past midnight, scrolling through X, unable to tear yourself away from devastating news, furious comments, or negative discourse? Welcome to doomscrolling, another new word that’s now in Merriam-Webster. The antidote? Cultivate a positive attitude.
to spend excessive time online scrolling through news or other content that makes one feel sad, anxious, angry, etc.
According to Merriam-Webster, ‘street date’ was first used in 1979, so it’s not exactly a new word. Still, it has gained circulation recently and has now been introduced to the dictionary with the following definition:
the date set by a manufacturer or publisher as the first day a product may be sold to consumers
We all know them. Edgelords. People online who are out to shock and dismay others, saying things that are just completely off the charts to get a rise out of someone. Now, Merriam-Webster has officially enshrined this new word.
someone who makes wildly dark and exaggerated statements (as on an internet forum) with the intent of shocking others
In March 2023, Bill Gates declared that the age of AI had begun. And if you’ve been paying any attention to what has been going on in the tech world over the past 12 months, it won’t surprise you that ‘generative AI’ now features in the dictionary.
Its official definition is now:
artificial intelligence that is capable of generating new content (such as images or text) in response to a submitted prompt (such as a query) by learning from a large reference database of examples
Do you remember the GameStop coup? It is August 2020, and YouTuber Roaring Kitty posted a viral video rallying viewers to buy stocks of GameStop (GME), a brick-and-mortar video game store. The result? GME soared from $5 to $80 in a single month, shocking the stock market.
Now, there is an official new word for a stock affected by this type of situation: a meme stock.
a stock that experiences a temporary sudden surge in popularity and price due to a coordinated effort (such as a viral social media campaign) by small investors
Another new word from the tech sphere is ‘passkey’. Surpassing passwords, passkeys are now officially defined as:
an authentication method that uses biometrics (such as fingerprint or facial recognition) to identify and grant access to an authorized user
Yes, ‘hallucination’ is not a new word. It has been in the dictionary for quite a while, but this year Merriam-Webster added a new meaning to the term. Now, you can also use ‘hallucination’ to refer to AI output that is just plain wrong, but sounds passable.
a plausible but false or misleading response generated by an artificial intelligence algorithm
There are few words that have gone viral to the extent that the term ‘girlboss’ did. As the dictionary now defines it, this neologism refers to:
an ambitious and successful woman (especially a businesswoman or entrepreneur)
However, it has recently gained an even wider meaning and many people, especially women, now use it to refer to someone who is moderately competent. In some cases, it’s even satirical or derogatory – a common development for hyped online terms.
Just changed the lightbulbs in a chandelier by myself. Girlboss.
— 🌸Burnt-out Baddie Barbie💕 (@heysunnie) October 18, 2023
Last but not least… another new word from the world of tech that has been accepted by Merriam-Webster is ‘last mile’, referring to:
the final stage of the distance that must be covered by a service (as a telecommunications network or delivery service) in order to reach a consumer