Modern Words That Recently Made It Into Dictionaries

Modern Words

If you’ve read the book Frindle, you’ll be familiar with how a child tried to get everyone to use his own made up word, including his teacher.

Our database of over 100,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary or Cambridge Dictionary is fairly extensive, but we are still continuously adding and accepting more words into daily use, many of which you would expect to see on an online social media post instead of in the dictionary. The incorporation of these modern words into a universally accepted standard further serves to emphasize how much pop culture has influenced us these days.

How many of these words are you familiar with?

Bling-bling (or simply bling)

Definition (Cambridge): noun: jewelry or decoration that attracts attention because it is very noticeable and looks expensive, or adj: used to describe jewelry or decoration that attracts attention because it is very noticeable and looks expensive.

This term probably originated from Jamaican slang for expensive jewelry, and was first used by Dana Dane in 1987 as an onomatope to refer to the tinkling of bells used on cartoon shows to demonstrate the shininess and desirability of valuable items, gold coins, money, jewelry or gems. The term later became the title of a 1999 song by the New Orleans hip hop Cash Money Millionaires in collaboration with rapper BG. This caused a spike in its popularity and before long, “bling-bling” became used by people to refer to shiny or valuable items.


Definition (Cambridge): adj: used to describe someone who feels that they are the same gender (= sex) as the physical body they were born with.

The “cis-“ prefix (pronounced “sis”) originates from Latin, meaning “on this side of”, which is the opposite of “trans-“, meaning “across from” or “on the other side of”. “Cisgender” is a fairly recent word, said to date from the 1990s or even 1994, to be more precise.

The term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. In February 2014, Facebook started to offer custom gender options for one’s profile, ten of which included the prefix “cis-“, such as “cis man”, “cis woman”, or simply “cis”. Since the dictionary inclusion, the term “cisgender” has started to be more frequently used.

However, despite its inclusion into dictionaries, some people do not prefer the use of the term and instead would rather use “non-trans” for various reasons, including for the purposes of reducing confusion to people who may not be familiar with transgender identities.

Mic Drop

Definition (Cambridge): noun: an act of intentionally dropping a microphone after you have given a speech or performance, as a way of making an impressive ending.

The first recorded mic drop was by Judy Garland on an episode of The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965. Another occurrence was by Eddie Murphy in his standup show Delirious in 1983. The gesture is said to have become prevalent sometime around the 1980s when rappers and stand-up comedians used to engage in confrontational battles as part of their performance. When one had delivered a particularly effective line, they would drop the microphone as an indication that they were completely confident the opponent would not be able to come back with anything worthy of a response.

The gesture was even performed by President Obama multiple times, once on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. This was then popularized through Internet memes. The President performed another mic drop at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on April 30, 2016.

On April 1, 2016, Google came up with a mic drop feature on Gmail as an April Fools’ Day joke, which would append to the end of emails the animation of a Minion dropping a microphone – as well as preventing the sender from seeing any subsequent replies to their email. However, the feature was poorly received with some people accidentally sending “mic drop” emails to corporate names and even losing their jobs over it.


Definition (Cambridge): noun: someone who has just started doing something, especially playing a computer game or using a type of software, and so does not know much about it.

“Noob” is believed to have originated from the word “newbie”, which was originally used by United States troops in the 1960s to 1970s to refer to a new man in a unit. Some believe that “newbie” originated from the word “newie”, referring to a neophyte or a beginner starting from around the 1850s, while others believe that “newbie” originated from “new boy” or “new blood” in the British public school around the same time.

The term was then transferred to online usage probably around the 1980s in Usenet groups. It became heavily used in the 1990s, particularly among computer programmers where 1337speak was popular, which led to a variant of “noob” being spelled as “n00b” (with two zeroes).

Another variant of “noob” is “newb”, which in some contexts has a different connotation. A “newb” is said to be a beginner that is willing to learn, while a “noob” refers to someone inexperienced or under-talented who does not have the desire to learn or improve.


Definition (Cambridge): verb: to do a style of dancing that involves bending low and moving the bottom and hips.

The origin of the word “twerk” apparently dates back to 1820, where it was spelled twirk as the blend of two words “twist and “jerk”, referring to a twisting or jerking movement or twitch. The word is believed to have emerged as a verb later in 1848, and the spelling “twerk” was used by 1901.

Others say that “twerk” has its roots in the early 1990s from the bounce music scene in New Orleans, and that it arose as a contraction of “to work” because dancers used to be encouraged to “work it”.

The earliest record of “twerk” was in 1993 in the song Do the Jubilee All by DJ Jubilee. In the 2000s, the word gained popularity when it was used by Atlanta rapper Lil Jon and The East Side Boys. A group of female dancers called the Twerk Team have posted several videos of them twerking on YouTube. They were mentioned during the song "Round of Applause" by Waka Flocka Flame featuring Drake, specifically in the line "Bounce that ass, shake that ass like the Twerk Team".

“Twerk” was then popularized by Miley Cyrus when she twerked during a medley of her tracks during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. The term became the top “what is” Google search that year as more and more people wondered what the word meant. Although Cyrus’ performance was mostly well-received, it did generate some controversy and criticism when some people accused her of stealing African American culture.

The term continued to grow in popularity and usage even after 2013, with Taylor Swift featuring twerking in her 2014 music video of “Shake It Off”. In 2017, Valerie Dixon was arrested in Lake County, Florida for twerking and speaking vulgarities in front of a school bus.


Come up with a word of your own that is currently not recognized as an English dictionary word, and assign it a meaning. List a few ways in which you can get people to recognize this term as a regular word.