NEW YORK — Coronavirus-related terms such as “self-isolate,” “physical distancing” and “herd immunity” are among the 535 new words and meanings that have been added to the U.S. Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The new additions, which also include “WFH” and “PPE,” abbreviations for working from home and personal protective equipment, were part of a regular update Wednesday to reflect changing uses of the English language.
It came after the dictionary made a special update last month to add terms such as “COVID-19,” “contact tracing” and “community spread,” because of “the speed with which these new words became essential to communication.”
A new word is entered when it is in frequent use by many writers, a process that usually takes at least a few years, the company said in a news release.
“But there are extraordinary cases when a new term enters the language and immediately becomes part of our collective daily vocabulary,” it said. “Such is the case with the language of the current pandemic.”
Newly added technology words include “deepfake,” an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said, and “microtarget,” referring to direct tailored ads or political messages.
“Zonkey,” meaning a hybrid between a zebra and a donkey, is an example of how “modern English loves blends,” according to Merriam-Webster.
A new use of “thirsty” to describe a strong desire for attention, approval or publicity “demonstrates how English speakers love to use metaphor to push words into new territories.”