10 Words You Didn’t Realize Were In The Dictionary

There are plenty of words in the dictionary. But which words would you be surprised to find? Both new and old, here are 10 surprising entries from the Oxford English Dictionary.
Two men looking at the newspaper for new english words

Here’s the thing about words: there are a lot of them. The folks at Oxford English Dictionary — and they know one or two things about words — state there are entries for just over 171,000 words in current use. And that’s just today. Language is a living thing that is constantly growing and changing. Here at Babbel, we have a few language experts (our proud super geeks) who are familiar with many of those 171,000 entries. But even they have a hard time staying up to date with all the new words being accepted into the English language.

This got us thinking about those overlooked entries in the dictionary: Words, new and old, that we may already be familiar with, but didn’t know were “official.” So we got to work, and found these beauties to share with you. Oh, and we thought it would be helpful to put these words into context with some situations where you might hear them. Well, perhaps not so helpful — or realistic — but examples nonetheless.

1. Fatberg

Definition: (Noun) A large mass of cooking fat which has congealed and hardened after being poured down a drain.

One of the newer words on this list, fatberg has its origins in the early 21st century British English and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary back in September 2017. But be forewarned — though the word may be new these grease giants are not! Fatbergs are a serious problem currently haunting the sewers of the United Kingdom. On one occasion growing into a grease giant 210 feet long. Fish and chips, anyone?

How you might hear it:

“Mayday, Mayday! We’ve struck a fatberg. We’re going down. Request urgent help. And moist towelettes. A lot of moist towelettes.”

2. Bouncebackability

Definition: (Noun) Especially in sports; the capacity to recover quickly from a setback.

Soccer player Iain Dowie used this in 2004 to say his team had “great bouncebackability” in regards to their fight against relegation. We can’t find any proof of this English word’s use before this, so we will credit its invention to Mr. Dowie. That’s right, a soccer player is responsible for an entry in the English dictionary.

How you might hear it:

[Dressing room, half-time during the final] “OK team, we’re down 2-0. But we can show some real bouncebackability if we score early next half. Stay positive, we can still win this Grammar World Cup.”

3. Coke-head

Definition: (Noun) A person who uses cocaine, a cocaine addict.

A well-known English word, but can you guess how long it’s been around for? “Coke-head” dates back to the 1920s, and it was added to the dictionary in 2004. The earliest use of the word is found in the works of sociologist Nels Anderson.

How you might hear it:

[At a party] “Hey everyone, who likes language factoids?! OK, OK… did you know that the word ‘coke-head’ is in the English dictionary? Hello? Guys? Where are you going?”

4. Humblebrag

Definition: (Noun) To make a seemingly modest, self-critical, or casual statement or reference that is meant to draw attention to one’s impressive qualities or achievements.

First used in the early 2000s, the humblebrag is a word-child from the social media revolution. Since we all became Facebooked and Twittered up to the eyeballs, it’s been very easy to fire off a humblebrag without a second thought — somewhere in between sharing one more cat meme or complaining about public transportation.

How you might hear it:

“The most annoying thing about writing language articles containing the word ‘humblebrag’ is all the messages you get from fans clogging up your inbox.”

5. Yowza

Definition: (Exclamation) Used to express approval, excitement, or enthusiasm.

We’re certain we’ve heard this in a few movies, and we like the old-school and innocent sound of it. Like something that a superhero in a black and white TV show would say. To that extent, we’re not entirely surprised to hear it is quite old-school, as its origins (as “yowzah”) go back to the 1930s. So not quite a new English word after all.

How you might hear it:

“Yowza, now that’s one hell of a fatberg!”

6. Douchebaggery

Definition: (Noun) Obnoxious or contemptible behavior.

This, of course, comes from the word “douchebag,” which was first used in 1908 and has its origins in North American English. That’s quite a while ago. It seems douchebags have been around for much longer than we would have guessed. Given that they are douchebags, they would go out of their way to point it out to us.

How you might hear it:

“Oh, you’ve met Cyril, then? Yeah, he’s a real piece of work. We call him the Deity of Douchebaggery.”

7. Hangry

Definition: (Adjective) Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.

This word surprisingly dates back to the 1950s and saves you hours by not having to pronounce the words “hungry” and “angry” separately. That’s useful when you’re busy responding with “YES I AM FINE, LEAVE ME ALONE” after yet another person asks “Are you OK?” on the day you had to skip lunch.

How you might hear it:

“Don’t let me get hangry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry.”

8. Goodfella

Definition: (Noun) A gangster, especially a member of a mafia family.

Yep, as in the 1990 movie directed by Martin Scorsese. The movie is actually the origin of this word. Now that you know this is in the dictionary, you can pretend to be a bit of a… wait for it… wiseguy.

How you might hear it:

  • “Uhm, who ordered the horse’s head? I just signed for it at the door.”
  • “Yeah, that’s Johnny’s. He’s a real goodfella. Just leave it in the fridge.”

9. Moonraker

Definition: (Noun) A native of the English county of Wiltshire.

Unlike the previous word, this one unfortunately doesn’t come from the 1979 classic starring Roger Moore. It does, nonetheless, have a fabulous story behind its definition, and one that is popular in Wiltshire, UK.

The story goes that locals were caught by customs officials while retrieving contraband alcohol they hid in a village pond. They explained their actions by saying they were trying to “rake in the cheese,” with the “cheese” being the reflection of the moon on the water. Naturally, the customs officials thought they were crazy and/or stupid and left them alone. The Moonrakers had the last laugh. And a great party, we suspect.

How you might hear it:

  • Moonraker is the best Bond film by far.”
  • “James Bond is from Wiltshire?”

10. Obvs

Definition: (Adverb) Short for “obviously.”

Even we felt a little silly including the definition for this one. This could be another one you associate with social media (#obvs), but it has actually been around since the 1980s.

How you might hear it:

“Obvs is short for ‘obviously,’ obviously. Isn’t that obvious?”

You know these words now, but many others await in your new language. Yowza!
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