From the press release:

As technology and pop culture transform the English language, Collins, leading British dictionary publisher since 1819, invites the public to play a role in identifying and submitting new words and meanings that should be included in the dictionary. 

That means it might only be a matter of time before words like “tweeps” and “Tebowing” officially enter the lexicon alongside other modern-day additions such as “OMG.”

Collins welcomes anyone who speaks English to submit new words through to be considered as official entries. Starting this month, anyone can suggest and define words online that will be reviewed by Collins Dictionary editors, who will put the words through the normal rigorous vetting process. 

By opening a normally closed submission and review process to the public, Collins will become the most up-to-date and relevant dictionary on the web. Suggestions will be posted on the website for feedback, and users are encouraged to “spread the word” on social media to build support for their proposed entries. 

“For Collins Online Dictionary, it was essential that we keep our ear close to the ground listening out for new words emerging from pop culture, science and technology,” said Alex Brown, Head of Digital at Collins. “Most dictionaries are static. By allowing the public to truly participate, we’re ensuring that we stay on top of the evolving English language.” 

The debate has already begun. Collins Dictionary has identified an initial list of new word candidates, including “creeping” (“Jersey Shore” style) “cray” (ask Jay-Z and Kanye West), “legbomb” (think Angelina Jolie at the Oscars) and “yolo” (“carpe diem” with a twist). The list also includes “mantyhose,” “superphone,” “sweatworking,” “Tebowing,” “tweeps” and “twitlit.”

Because many of the words have emerged from pop culture and social media, the publisher is inviting celebrities, bloggers and writers to get their followers to rally around the words they love – or against those they hate. 

“We know people are passionate about the preservation and evolution of the English language, and we want to tap into that as new words continue to capture the public imagination,” added Brown. 

Whether a word has been around for years or just been coined, it will go through the same review process by Collins Dictionary editors using criteria that includes frequency of use, number of sources and staying power. Evidence will be based on the publisher’s 4.5 billion-word database of language called the Collins Corpus, which takes words from a wide range of spoken and written English sources, including newspapers, radio and social media. 

Every word has to prove itself worthy of a place in the Collins Dictionary, meaning advocates need to make a compelling case for their entries. Example sentences, word origins and a higher number of overall uses could help a word get noticed. Collins Dictionary editors will generally provide feedback on a word within two or three weeks of submission, and words that aren’t initially accepted will continue to be monitored and reviewed over the next year. 

Collins, one of the world’s longest-established dictionary publishers, launched www.collinsdictionary.comon Dec. 31, 2011. The word suggestion feature will be a permanent feature on the website accessible from July 2012.


  1. I have an idea.
    In the 80’s – 90’s journalists changed the word “hacker” to mean “security breaker”.
    Lets get even, and change the word “Journalist” to mean “superficial moron”.

  2. The definition change of “hacker” follows two common linguistic paths of the process of a word entering popular usage —

    No other common word exists that will fit, and the most negative definition/connotation of a word tends to become its meaning in general usage over time.

    Given that, I doubt journalists are to blame. Even if they did first use the term, they only started the ball down the hill and readers kept kicking it because the term worked for them.

  3. Marylinn, I don’t think this was just linguistic drift. Journalists were ignorant of the subject area, and refused to learn about it. Their ignorance was then imposed on their audience.

    It’s like calling a train driver a bus driver, which only works if you have no train service, but immediately becomes confusing when you move somewhere that has a train service. And that leaves out hackers=bad being the defamation of an entire, and very productive, sub-culture.

  4. Actually, Clytie, I think “hacker” is a perfect example of linguistic drift. Most words which have gone from being a positive or neutral connotation to a negative connotation don’t have a factual element to that shift.

    Take, for example, most of the words used to describe a female servant over the last thousand years ended up meaning “whore.” Few of these women with their hard lives, poor food, and miserable appearances were whore material nor did they sell themselves, but by redefining them as whores, men with power over them legitimatized their rape.

    In the case of “hacker,” it was a few reporters who didn’t understand the term who started the trend, but the general public took the misunderstood word and made the meaning change permanent.

    Those who call themselves traditional hackers need to get past this and redefine themselves with a new term because former definitions rarely return except as a footnote in a dictionary.

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