Facebook And Twitter Land New Words In Dictionary

    November 16, 2009

Facebook users will be familiar with the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 Word of the Year, "unfriend."

Oxford says the term unfriend is a verb. Its definition of the word is "To remove someone as a friend on a social networking site such as Facebook."

"It has both currency and potential longevity," said Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program. "In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year.


"Most ‘un-‘ prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar ‘un-‘ verbs (uncap, unpack), but ‘unfriend’ is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of ‘friend’ that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!). Unfriend has real lex-appeal."

Other Words of the Year finalists include:

  hashtag – a # [hash] sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets (postings on the Twitter site) that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets
  intexticated – distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle
  netbook – a small, very portable laptop computer with limited memory
  paywall – a way of blocking access to a part of a website which is only available to paying subscribers
  sexting – the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cellphone
freemium – a business model in which some basic services are provided for free, with the aim of enticing users to pay for additional, premium features or content

Twitter releated word clusters for 2009 include:


To determine the Word of the Year, Oxford says its lexicographers track the vocabulary of the English language to see how it changes from year to year. The word is then debated and chosen  with the selection made to reflect the mindset of the year and its lasting potential for cultural significance and use.


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