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Behold, the new words added to Merriam-Webster: Clickbait, WTF and photobomb

Jared Leto photobombs producer James W. Skotchdopole with this Best Picture award for the film “Birdman” at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills on Feb. 22, 2015. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Next time a less-than-tech-savvy relative asks what does “WTF” mean, no need to figure out how not to curse in front of your elders. Instead, just kindly point them to the dictionary.

Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary added WTF, clickbait, photobomb and more than 1,700 new entries, the company announced Tuesday. They’ve also added thousands of new examples to definitions and updated 200 of the dictionary’s most popular entries.

“WTF,” according to the dictionary definition, is “what the f—” (yeah, you should just look it up.) The definition continues: “used to express or describe outraged surprise, recklessness, confusion, or bemusement.” The word “photobomb” means “to move into the frame of a photograph as it is being taken as a joke or prank.”

Merriam defines “clickbait” as “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the links leads to content of dubious value or interest.” Then, Merriam tweeted this:

You’ve likely used a number of these words for awhile now and without a second thought. But the path for a word to becoming an actual dictionary entry can take a while.

In deciding whether to add a word, Merriam-Webster editors track the word’s usage and enter it into their system as citation, along with examples of its use and source information. A single word or similar words having a lot of citations doesn’t guarantee a dictionary entry, and sometimes new words that are deemed widely used and likely to last are quickly added, such as with AIDS, according to Merriam-Webster.

But most words need to be “used in a substantial number of citations that come from a wide range of publications over a considerable period of time,” according to Merriam-Webster. “Specifically, the word must have enough citations to allow accurate judgments about its establishment, currency, and meaning.”

In 2014, Merriam-Webster added more than 1,900 new words, including “superfood” and “vuvuzela.”

Here are some of the new words Merriam announced on Tuesday had been added to the Unabridged version, along with their first listed definitions:

  • Colossal squid (noun): an extremely large squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) occurring in deeper waters of the Southern Ocean that is the largest known living invertebrate.
  • Emoji (noun): any of various small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc.
  • Dark money (noun): money contributed to nonprofit organizations (especially those classified as social welfare organizations and business leagues) that is used to fund political campaigns without the disclosure of the donors’ identities.
  • Jegging (noun): a legging that is designed to resemble a tight-fitting pair of denim jeans and is made of a stretchable fabric — usually plural.
  • Meme (noun): an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.
  • Net neutrality (noun): the idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source or destination.
  • Neurofeedback (noun): the technique of making brain activity perceptible to the sense (as by recording brain waves with an electroencephalograph and presenting them visually or audibly) in order to consciously alter such activity.
  • NSFW (abbreviation): not safe for work; not suitable for work — used to warn someone that a website, e-mail attachment, etc., is not suitable for viewing at most places of employment.
  • Slendro (noun): a pentatonic tuning employed for Javanese gamelans that divides the octave into five roughly similar internals.
  • Vocal fry (noun): a vocal effect produced by very slow vibration of the vocal cords and characterized by a creaking sound and low pitch.


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