A year in words

Have you taken many selfies recently? If so, was it because you were enjoying some me time, and wanted to share the moment with friends, or were you just in a bit  of a dappy mood? Squee!



Image: Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

If you followed that paragraph, then well done, but perhaps it’s time to move on, as that was so 2013. Oxford Dictionaries announced at the end of last year that selfie (a photo you take of yourself ) was 2013’s word of the year. Other notable new words of 2013 were me time (time spent on your own relaxing or doing something you enjoy), dappy (silly and disorganised) and squee (an expression of happiness or delight).

Although not the first organisation to do so, since 2004 (2005 in USA), Oxford Dictionaries have announced a ‘word of the year’ every year, selected by their editorial staff. In 2008, it was credit crunch (used to describe the economic downturn in many European and North American countries), and in 2012 it was omnishambles (a complete mess, caused by a series of interconnected mistakes).

New words come into the English language every year, and there are widely varying estimates as to how many accepted words/phrases come into use. however, it is possible to identify some common origins of new words:



Image: smarnad/freedigitalphotos.net



Common acronyms that came into English last year include apols, (apologies) grats (congratulations) and vom (vomit – used to show you think something’s disgusting – It made me want to vom). Others involve using the first letters of commonly used phrases, such as the following:

FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out i.e. the fear of not being able to keep up with the latest news or gossip, especially when using social media.

TL;DR – Too Long; Didn’t Read, common on forums and comments sections, to say that a person’s comment is too longwinded

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device, a system whereby employees (or students) bring their own electronic devices to use for work or study.

Portmanteau words

A portmanteau word is formed from combining two other words. A common example being ‘brunch’ – a late breakfast formed from the words ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’.  New portmanteau words in 2013 included:

phablet – a large smart phone, formed from ‘phone’ and ‘tablet’

jorts – ‘jeans’ + ‘shorts’

jeggings – ‘jeans ‘+ ‘leggings’, very tight jeans

Old words, new uses

Perhaps the largest source of new words is when established words take on different meanings. Here are four new words/phrases from 2013 formed in this way. Can you guess what they mean?



a food baby

the internet of things

Answers are now in the comments section below.

So what was your word of the year for 2013? Have you seen or used any of the words mentioned in this post? Can you think of any popular new words or phrases which have come into your language in the last year?

Related links

The American Dialect society (who created the first ‘word of the year’ announcement in 1991)’s 2014 word of the year

Wikipedia entry on the word of the year

Oxford Dictionaries word of the year blog

Merriam Webster’s word of the year

Oxford Dictionaries word of the year FAQ

Damian Willians

I'm an ELT author/writer and have written several books and digital material for various publishers (Amazon author page - https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00EG71K1Q). I'm also a member of the committee for the IATEFL Materials Writers Special Interest Group (MaWSIG). After living and working in Brazil for ten years, I'm now based in London.

  • Cintia Zaitune
    Posted at 16:07h, 14 janeiro Responder

    Hi Damian,
    Really enjoyed your post! Very informative and amuzing!
    I believe this is a new word… a “braggie” – photo of a cool place that you want to show off! 😉
    Buzz worthy: Worth making a buzz about????
    Curious to know the meaning of the words!


  • Damian
    Posted at 21:07h, 14 janeiro Responder

    Hi Cintia

    Many thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Yes, you’re right about ‘braggie’, seems ‘selfie’ really was sooo 2013! 🙂

    I’ll post the other meanings up in a couple of days, so do stop by again.

  • Damian Williams
    Damian Williams
    Posted at 21:09h, 14 janeiro Responder

    Hi Cintia

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. A quick Google search confirms exactly what you say about ‘braggie’ – seems ‘selfie’ really was sooo 2013! 🙂

    I’ll post the meanings of the other phrases in a couple of days, so do stop by again.

  • Debora Schisler
    Debora Schisler
    Posted at 18:41h, 16 janeiro Responder


    What fun reading your post! Lots of new acronyms for me, See you soon.


  • Damian Williams
    Damian Williams
    Posted at 09:52h, 17 janeiro Responder

    Thanks for dropping by, Deborah – I thought your post was really useful and practical!

  • Damian Williams
    Damian Williams
    Posted at 09:59h, 17 janeiro Responder

    OK, so here are the answers to the mini quiz above:

    buzzworthy – something which has the potential to attract a lot of attention (or ‘buzz’)

    showrooming – visiting shops just to see what products look like and try them out, then ordering them cheaper online, or using the physical shop as ‘showroom’.

    a food baby – a bloated stomach after eating too much food (I think I’m expecting twins)

    the internet of things – the way different objects are connected e.g. a smart fridge, a heart rate monitor, RFID chips, etc., in order to create an internet-like structure.

    Did you guess/know any of them?

  • Cintia Zaitune
    Posted at 16:21h, 20 janeiro Responder

    I didn’t know any of them. In fact, I had never heard any of them before. Very nice post!

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