Well, it’s been a year. And like all years, some new and exciting terms have irrevocably entered our lexicon, as evidenced by their inclusion in the dictionary. Keep in mind, a word needs to be circulating for a while — often years — before it can get on Merriam-Webster’s radar. (Except COVID-19: That bastard went from coinage to dictionary entry more quickly than any other word — 34 days). So, while these may not be entirely new to you, in 2021, they were new to our dictionaries. How many do you know?
ASMR: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. A pleasant, calming “tingly feeling” that originates on the back of the scalp and spreads downward in response to certain sounds like whispering, chopping, or crinkling paper, to name a few. (We take issue with the descriptor “pleasant” here, but hey, that’s just us.)
BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Colour. An acronym that recognises the systemic racial and civil rights injustices that people in Black and Indigenous cultures both face.
Decarceration: Release from prison; the practice or policy of reducing the number of people subject to imprisonment.
Deepfake: A synthetic, digitally manipulated audio or video, often created with the help of “deep learning” Artificial Intelligence, in which a person’s face or voice is manipulated to convey something that did not actually occur. See: alarmingly realistic Tom Cruise deepfake videos.
Doomscrolling: (Alt: Doomsurfing.) The act of spending an excessive amount of screen time scrolling through disheartening or depressing news.
Don’t @ me: Translation: Don’t mention my name (by using my social media handle) to call me out on this opinion I’m about to share that may or may not be offensive to certain people.
Elbow bump: The fist bump of the COVID era.
Finna: Dictionary.com describes this new word as “a phonetic spelling representing the African American Vernacular English variant of fixing to.”
Flex (informal): Not talking about muscles, here. At least, not the literal kind. The informal definition refers to the act of bragging or showing off. Example: My biggest flex is that I was in a Cracker Barrel commercial when I was 5.
Hard pass: A firm rejection or dismissal. (Pineapple on pizza? Hard pass.)
Hygge: (Pronounced hoo-gah.) A Danish expression used to convey a mood or attitude of coziness, comfortable conviviality, and slowing down to find joy in everyday moments. Think mulled wine with friends, faux fur blankets, clear workspaces, and fluffy socks.
Long hauler: someone who experiences one or more long-term effects following initial recover from “a serious illness.” (Which we all know is COVID-19. Don’t try to act like it isn’t, dictionary).
Makerspace: A communal, collaborative workspace where “makers” can create and refine personal projects (from LEGO to robots).
Neurodivergent: Adjective describing a person whose brain functions differently than what is considered standard or “neurotypical.” Examples include: Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette’s, and certain chronic mental health illnesses, such as OCD, anxiety, and depression.
Performative: While the word isn’t new, the 2021 iteration is. The full entry on Merriam-Webster reads: “Performative disapproving: made or done for show (as to bolster one’s own image or make a positive impression on others).”
Sapiosexual: Noun or verb: Finding (or a person who finds) intelligence sexually attractive or arousing.
Second Gentleman: Behold: the long-overdue male equivalent of Second Lady. When Kamala Harris was elected, for the first time, we had to coin a word for the spouse of a female Vice President.
Twice exceptional: Also written as “2e.” A term to describe highly gifted people who also have neurodivergent learning difficulties.