Zika, hate-watch, and 420: an Oxford English Dictionary update

March 2017 - Today the Oxford  English Dictionary (OED) - one of world’s largest and longest-running language research projects - announces its latest update, including more than 1000 revised and updated entries and over 1000 new senses.

2017 marks Canada’s 150th anniversary and, fittingly, the March update includes Canadianness  and Canadianizing, along with the associated people, animals, and plants native to or originating in Canada. These include Canada  lily, Canadian beaver, Canadian canoe,  Canadian dollar, Canadian football, Canadian  thistle, and Canadian whisky.

Changes in the language reflect changes in society, and dictionaries naturally reflect that process. A word might come to prominence because of what’s happening in the world now, but OED’s research can reveal its full and surprising history.  The mosquito-borne flavivirus Zika saw a huge increase in usage since the widespread epidemic hit the headlines in 2015. The newly published OED entry for Zika reveals the disease was first discovered and named as long ago as 1953. As the world seems to demand more transparency, we see acronyms like FOI request and FOIA appear in the OED this month. Perhaps also representative of world events,  hatemonger has been added, as well as sub-entries like hate figure and hate group. Hate-watch, a verb meaning ‘to watch (a television programme, etc.) in a spirit of mockery, as a form of entertainment’ also appears in this update.

There has also been enough evidence to fly the freak flag, where a trait or series of traits is regarded as unconventional, especially when exhibited openly, proudly, or defiantly. Critics of the latest hipster beard trend may be pleased to see pogonophobia, a noun to describe a strong dislike of beards or an irrational aversion to beardedness. 420, used to refer to marijuana, or to the action of smoking marijuana, also makes the latest update. Its intriguing origin is revealed to be a reference to the time 4:20 or the date April 20th, considered as occasions for smoking or celebrating the smoking of marijuana.

Did you know?

Although rare in use, canarding refers to the action of playing a wind instrument in such a way as to produce a harsh sound like that of a duck.

Canaiolo is a variety of red wine grape which forms a key component of Chianti wine and is associated particularly with the Tuscany region of Italy.

Used in Japanese cooking, umeboshi is pickled and dried ume fruit, eaten as a light meal or snack, typically served with rice.

sticky-outy means ‘that protrudes or sticks out’, elaborating upon the form of the synonymous earlier word sticky-out by adding an additional –y. The OED’s first citation comes from a letter written by the Australian composer and pianist Percy Grainger to his mother in 1921, lamenting ‘My hair has taken a wild fit, all sticky-outy in ends.’ Indeed, Grainger’s hair was notable for its sticky-outiness.


Notes for Editors

To arrange an interview with an OED editor,  or for any further information, please contact:

Media contact (UK, Europe, and Rest of World):

Chloe Foster, Publicity Manager, Oxford Dictionaries

chloe.foster@oup.com | +44 (0)1865 353584| +44 (0)7788394243

Explore the OED, including the new and revised entries, using press log in details.
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The OED is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over 829,000 words, senses, and compounds – past and present – from across the English-speaking world. As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from those of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings. You'll still find these in the OED, but you'll also find the history of individual words, and of the language – traced through over 3.3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books. View OED FAQs here.


The OED requires several independent examples of the word being used, and also evidence that the word has been in use for a reasonable amount of time. The exact time-span and number of examples may vary: for instance, one word may be included on the evidence of only a few examples, spread out over a long period of time, while another may gather momentum very quickly, resulting in a wide range of evidence in a shorter space of time. We also look for the word to reach a level of general currency where it is unselfconsciously used with the expectation of being understood: that is, we look for examples of uses of a word that are not immediately followed by an explanation of its meaning for the benefit of the reader. We have a large range of words under constant review, and as items are assessed for inclusion in the dictionary, words which have not yet accumulated enough evidence are kept on file, so that we can refer back to them if further evidence comes to light.

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