Dictionary.com Adds Social Justice Words, Calls out Columbus Day, and Tells Readers to Never Call Them 'Slaves'

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

As pointed out by the female lead in the fantastic, 1984 film Top Secret!, “Times change. People change. Hairstyles change.”

She wasn’t just “whistlin’ ‘Dixie,'” and as we’ve seen in recent years, the definitions of words are also on the move.


So goes used words in general.

On Thursday, Dictionary.com announced it’s added hundreds of new entries to its listings.

Per an article on the site, 450 words have been added, and 94 new definitions have debuted.

A topic among the term tabulation: the coronavirus.

Increase your COVID vocab:

Technical updates include revised definitions at acute respiratory distresssyndrome (ARDS for short) and variants and strains, owing to new forms of the novel coronavirus. Modified social rituals like the elbow bump caught our attention, especially as the gesture evolved to include more forearm contact than the name implies.

We now offer more guidance about the spelling and capitalization of COVID-19 (e.g., usage notes on shortened forms like Covid)—an entry we added not even a year ago but that already warranted expansion.

As the pandemic persisted, the 2020 Zoom Boom vroomed into 2021. We created a new entry for Zoom itself, along with hybrid learning and blended learning. The gaming term bio break—“a trip to a restroom or bathroom, especially a pause for this during a meeting or other group activity”— made the cut after being widely adopted in response to endless hours of WFH video calls. Video telephony definitions were added or revised for mute, unmute, virtual, remote, and f2f.

Now to woker words:

Our lexicography team continues to document the evolving language related to BIPOC experiences and has revised Indigenous and First Nation identity words, from Aleut to Yupik.


The website respects “Indigenous peoples,” it says, hence “the move to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.”

Social justice also saw upgrades:

Academic constructs, like Critical Race Theory (CRT), and concrete social justice reforms, such as Universal Basic Income (UBI), are now in the dictionary. And the distinct form reparations—previously defined as part of the singular headword reparation—has been given its own entry.

Other marginalized groups and identities, newly salient to the general public, are part of this update, including enbies and neurodivergent people. Students who are twice exceptional (or 2e, for short) now have their own entry, as well:

relating to or noting a person, especially a child or student, who is considered gifted and also has a diagnosed disability, as a learner with both a high IQ and dyslexia.

As for politics, it’s not the first time the site’s dipped its toes.

As covered by RedState’s Sister Toldjah, just after the 2020 presidential election, Dictionary.com courted a repackaging of court-packing:

Lastly, the word “slave” got a special mention.


Not only does Dictionary.com provide meanings to words, it wants to keep you from using some of them.

[W]e reviewed the use of the noun slave in defining language across our entire dictionary. It is painfully clear that referring to enslaved people as slaves has the effect of dehumanizing those subjected to chattel slavery. Use of the noun slave in this way also obscures the responsibility of those who upheld and benefitted from such an institution.

And now you have a responsibility — not to employ it. So what do you call someone who was a slave?

Perhaps we’ll find that out in the 2022 update.

For now, people change; politics change; try and keep up.



See more pieces from me:

University Students Vote to Double Ethnic Studies Requirements to ‘Combat Current Systemic Racism’

Oregon Eyes Giving $123,000 to Black Residents Who Can Prove Ancestral Slavery

Kentucky College’s ‘White Citizenship as Terrorism’ Event Schools Students on Trumpism’s Criminal Core

Find all my RedState work here.

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