Language is a living construct that morphs and evolves as societies change and adapt.

Every year the Merriam-Webster dictionary updates their list of recognised English words and phrases with new ones that have entered the general course of language use. This year the dictionary added 533 new words and have made revisions to the meaning / usage of over 4000 other words.

Some of the more notable inclusions are:

From the world of politics and law:

Deep state: an alleged secret governmental network operating extralegally. It may feel as though the term has been around since the time when men wore fedoras in Washington, but current evidence dates it only to the dawn of the current century.

New abbreviations added in 2019:

Fabulosity: fabulous quality, state, or nature.

Solopreneur: a solo entrepreneur.

New words categorised as race and identity:

They: expanded to include this sense: “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary.” It's an expansion of a use that is sometimes called the “singular they” (and one that has a long history in English). When a reflexive pronoun corresponding to singular use of they is needed, themself is seeing increasing use.

Colourism: prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favouring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin

New words in pop culture:

Coulrophobia: meaning “abnormal fear of clowns.” Although Hollywood releases and dictionary updates are not coordinated, even for publicity purposes, this entry hits your screens within weeks of the premieres of both It Chapter Two and Joker.

From the world of psychology:

Aphantasia: the inability to form mental images.

Autogenic training: a self-relaxation technique that involves repeating calming statements to yourself.

From the world of business:

Pain point: a persistent or recurring problem (as with a product or service) that frequently inconveniences or annoys customers


In some sense new dictionary words give us an indication of where the world finds itself year-on-year. One of our big themes that we've been tracking in 2019 is the general absence of trust in society, which many of these new terms reflect.