Dictionary book

Editors add 455 new words to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Do too many fluffernutters give you the body of a father?


No. What did you hear?

KING: (Laughs).

MARTINEZ: Do your a-rama voting sessions still descend into whataboutism?

KING: If these questions don’t make sense, don’t worry. You can look up these words in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. They added 455 new words and definitions this month.

MARTINEZ: Peter Sokolowski is the editor-in-chief of Merriam-Webster.

PETER SOKOLOWSKI: The fun part of the job is noticing the new vocabulary and watching it evolve. We don’t want to add a term that might deviate from usage. We need a lot of proof.

MARTINEZ: There were some words, however, that had an immediate impact, like the ones we came to know during the pandemic.

SOKOLOWSKI: In this case, we have a new meaning of existing terms like breakthrough, as in breakthrough infection.


ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: … risk of catching a breakthrough infection that …

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: … Could get an infection.

ANTHONY FAUCI:. . Had a breakthrough infection.

SOKOLOWSKI: And super-spreader.


TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: It turned into a super broadcast event.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: … From a superspreader event that happened …

SOKOLOWSKI: What we had defined by referring to an individual who was spreading a disease in a population. But now it refers, of course, to events or places that are responsible for the spread of the disease.

KING: Some words have been around for decades, like fluffernutter. Go on.

SOKOLOWSKI: This is a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) First of all you spread, spread, spread your bread with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff and have a fluffnutter.

SOKOLOWSKI: It’s a somewhat regional term, and maybe that’s why it’s new to a lot of people. It’s not new to me because I grew up in New England.

MARTINEZ: And that’s where the father comes in.

KING: (Laughs).

MARTINEZ: Now more food goes into the Merriam-Webster lexicon, this time borrowed from Spanish. And I can’t believe it took that long to include the creamy horchata drink and the crispy chicharron pork snack.

SOKOLOWSKI: English has a voracious appetite for words from other languages. And the tongue has this elastic capacity to grow.

KING: Just a few more as evidence of that growth – Deplatform, Oobleck, Falcon, Biting Rot. If you don’t know what they mean, now you can search for them.

(SOUNDBITE OF J. MANIFESTO’S “MONOLOGUE”) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.