We tend to think of language as fixed, an unchanging entity. But the truth is, it's constantly evolving. It's a reflection of us--the way we communicate is a large part of how we live. And that shifts with every generation.

When you think of it that way, it makes it less surprising (but still striking) that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary added a whopping 640 words to the lexicon in April of 2019 alone. 

"The work of revising a dictionary is constant," said the organization, "and it mirrors the culture's need to make sense of the world with words."

Here are 13 notable additions in 2019, along with examples of their usage (note that some of these are additional definitions of previously-existing words, like ping):

1. Buzzy

Definition (informal): causing or characterized by a lot of speculative or excited talk or attention : generating buzz

Sesame Street now leaks spoofs of buzzy shows like Mad Men and True Blood online before they air ... -- Tanner Stransky

2. Gig economy

Definition: economic activity that involves the use of temporary or freelance workers to perform jobs typically in the service sector

One reason the gig economy has taken off: People tend to change jobs more frequently and many enjoy the flexibility of choosing when and where they work. -- Marcia Pledger

3. Fast fashion

Definition: an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers

In 1985, we bought roughly 31 clothing items per year; now [in 2012] we snap up twice that many thanks to "fast fashion." -- Azeen Ghorayshi

4. First world problem

Definition: a usually minor or trivial problem or annoyance experienced by people in relatively affluent or privileged circumstances especially as contrasted with problems of greater social significance facing people in poor and underdeveloped parts of the world

In terms of first world problems, the biggest one is probably a cracked phone screen. -- Ben Sin

5. Garbage time

noun (US, sports)
Definition: the final moments or minutes of a game in which one side has an insurmountable lead, substitutes often enter the game in place of starting players, and scoring is typically easier because of looser defensive play

One touchdown was all the Broncos' D allowed, and that came in garbage time. -- Paul Zimmerman

6. Microaggression

Definition: a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)

A digital photo project run by a Fordham University student about "racial microaggressions" features minority students holding up signs with comments like "You're really pretty ... for a dark-skin girl." -- Jinnie Spiegler

7. Mumblecore

Definition: a genre of narrative film focusing primarily on the intimate lives of young characters and featuring scenes of ample dialogue and minimal action

The actors (almost always nonprofessionals) rarely say what they mean; a lot of time, they don't know what they mean. ... The first mumblecore film, by general agreement, was Andrew Bujalski's 2002 "Funny Ha Ha," a sweet-natured account of a young woman's post-college blues. -- David Denby

8. Ping

Definition: to send a usually brief message (such as a text message) or notification to (a person, a person's phone, etc.)

... provides an opportunity to check the time or see who pinged you while you were coming down the mountain ... -- Wired

9. Safe space

Definition: a place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations

Women, sexual assault victims, people of color, transgender students. College campuses have created "safe spaces" for all sorts of marginalized groups. -- Catherine Rampell

10. Stan

slang, often disparaging
Definition: an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan

In a 2007 interview, J. K. Rowling opened up about Albus Dumbledore's sexuality and confirmed that the Hogwarts patriarch is, in fact, gay. The revelation has been a subject of fodder among Potter stans for years. -- Christopher Rosa

11. Swole

Definition (informal): extremely muscular : having a physique enhanced by bodybuilding exercises

-- often used with the verb "to get": If you don't take a photo of yourself after you've spent at least 45 minutes trying to get swole, did you even work out? -- Hope Schreiber

12. They

Definition: used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary 

I knew certain things about ... the person I was interviewing.... They had adopted their gender-neutral name a few years ago, when they began to consciously identify as nonbinary -- that is, neither male nor female. They were in their late 20s, working as an event planner, applying to graduate school. -- Amy Harmon

13. Woo-woo

Definition: dubiously or outlandishly mystical, supernatural, or unscientific

Energy beams from the eyes certainly sounds like woo-woo stuff ... -- Steve Blow


chiefly US slang
Definition: aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)

... argued that ... Brad Pitt is not only woke, but the wokest man in Hollywood ... because he uses his status--and his production company Plan B--to create space for artists of color, with such films as 12 Years a Slave, Selma, and the upcoming film Moonlight. -- Giselle Defares