Urban Dictionary, Wordnik track evolution of language as words change, emerge

January 10, 2012

I’m a word nerd. I like learning the etymology of words and seeing how language changes over time. So I was intrigued when comedian Harris Wittels coined the term “humblebrag” and when Weird Al Yankovic used the word “kardash” to describe a unit of time measuring 72 days. Would “humblebrag” and “kardash” become mainstream, I wondered, and would they ever show up in a traditional dictionary?

As old words take on new meanings and new words emerge, questions about the fluidity of language and the meaning of words become more complicated — and more interesting. Now, thanks to sites like Urban Dictionary and Wordnik, we can track words as they evolve and see how they carry different meanings for different people at different points in time. 

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