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THROWBACK THURSDAY: DICTIONARY.COM CELEBRATES 20th BIRTHDAY WITH A LOOK BACK AT TWO DECADES OF LANGUAGE EVOLUTION

Insight from Leading Digital Dictionary Showcases How Technology Influences Language - Fail and Sandbox Mean More Than They Used To

OAKLAND, Calif., October 15, 2015 – Twenty years ago, friend was used primarily as a noun and no one was asking to be pinged with takeaways from a meeting. The English language is evolving more quickly than ever, and for the past 20 years Dictionary.com, the leading digital resource for everything word-related, has kept pace with the evolution of our cultural lexicon. The company celebrates turning 20 years old with a look back at 20 words whose definitions have expanded in popular use over the past two decades.

Social networking has not only changed the way we communicate, it has also influenced a number of definitions in the dictionary. Like, timeline, tweet, friend, and profile have all taken on new meaning with the rise of social media giants Facebook and Twitter. Technology itself is a robust source of new words, as a change in interface can often lead to a change in vocabulary. Most recently, the rise of smartwatches and fitness trackers launched new meanings for words like swipe and glance, as in information on an electronic screen that can be understood quickly.

“We are proud to celebrate 20 years of helping people all over the world unlock the power of language and apply it to their daily lives – from conversations with friends to a post on Facebook,” said Liz McMillan, chief executive officer of Dictionary.com. “This list shows just how much the rise of technology has shaped our word use over time, and is a fun way to revisit the evolution of the English language since the dawn of the Internet era.”

Technology-related words and meanings are often so intertwined with modern life that they achieve widespread usage relatively quickly, akin to going viral, another word highlighted in Dictionary.com’s list. New definitions for words like bump, footprint, meme, and text have also all made their way into our collective vocabularies in the past two decades.

Dictionary.com’s celebratory list looks back at 20 words whose new definitions entered popular usage in the last 20 years; more information on words with definitions that have been updated or expanded is available on the Dictionary.com blog.

  • Bump
    • to move an online post or thread to the top of the reverse chronological list by adding a new comment or post to the thread.
  • Cloud
    • any of several parts of the Internet that allow online processing and storage of documents and data as well as electronic access to software and other resources.
  • Core
    • the muscles of the torso, which provide support for the spine and pelvis.
  • Fail
    • to make an embarrassing or humorous mistake, be in a humiliating situation, etc., and be subject to ridicule.
  • Footprint
    • a unique set of characteristics, actions, etc., that leave a trace and serve as a means of identification.
  • Friend 
    • to add a person to one's list of contacts on a social-networking website.
  • Glance 
    • information on an electronic screen that can be understood quickly or at a glance.
  • Goldilocks
    • not being extreme or not varying drastically between extremes, especially between hot and cold.
  • Like 
    • to indicate one’s enjoyment of, agreement with, or interest in website content, especially in social media.
  • Meme 
    • a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.
  • Ping 
    • to make contact with someone by sending a brief electronic message, as a text message.
  • Profile
    • the personal details, images, user statistics, social-media timeline, etc., that an individual creates and associates with a username or online account.
  • Sandbox
    • an environment in which software developers or editors can create and test new content, separate from other content in the project.
  • Swipe
    • to move the fingers across a touchscreen.
  • Takeaway
    • conclusions, impressions, or action points resulting from a meeting, discussion, roundtable, or the like.
  • Text 
    • to send a text message.
  • Timeline
    • a collection of online posts or updates associated with a specific social-media account, in reverse chronological order.
  • Tweet
    • a very short message posted on the Twitter website.
  • Unplug
    • to refrain from using digital or electronic devices for a period of time.
  • Viral
    • becoming very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially through the Internet.

About Dictionary.com 

Dictionary.com, an operating business of IAC, is the world's leading, definitive online and mobile resource for everything word related. We provide tens of millions of global monthly users with reliable access to millions of definitions, synonyms, audio pronunciations, example sentences, translations and spelling help through our services at Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com. Our leading mobile applications for reference and education have been downloaded more than 100 million times