From the category archives:

linguistics and lexicography

  • What does it mean when a word is not in the dictionary?

    Posted by on February 06, 2017

    Sometimes you’ll see a word you’re not sure of, so you look it up in a dictionary – and lo and behold, it’s missing. You may conclude it’s not a ‘real word’, or maybe not even a word at all. But this is premature. Most words that people look up but fail to find in […]

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  • Macmillan Dictionary lays down the law

    Posted by on January 25, 2017

    Our first guest post of the new year is by Kevin Pike, who lectures on English for Special Purposes in the field of law at Erlangen University in Germany. Kevin contributed over 500 new and revised legal terms to the latest update of Macmillan Dictionary. _____________ It should be immediately obvious to anyone reading this […]

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  • New year, new words: Macmillan Dictionary’s latest update

    Posted by on January 23, 2017

    Macmillan Dictionary kicks off 2017 with another major update (what we call a “new release”). As always, the hundreds of additions to the dictionary include general vocabulary items referring to things or concepts that didn’t exist before, among them words like cat café, no-platform, and cupcakery. More often, though, a new word will emerge to […]

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  • Pearl clutchers, snowflakes, elites and SJWs

    Posted by on January 09, 2017

    In his linguistic review of 2016 last month, editor-in-chief Michael Rundell discussed the rise in people’s use of the word elite and showed how it ‘now seems to mean whatever anyone wants it to mean’. Lane Greene at the Economist reached a similar conclusion, writing that elite is ‘becoming a junk-bin concept used by different […]

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  • Merry Christmas from the Macmillan Dictionary team

    Posted by on December 24, 2016

    One of the quintessential elements of a British Christmas is the singing of carols, an activity that has retained its popularity despite the general decline in religious observance. From the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast around the world from King’s College Cambridge to groups gathered in shopping centres, town squares and on village […]

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  • The year “elite” changed its meaning: a linguistic review of 2016

    Posted by on December 07, 2016

    It’s been a busy year. In 2016, the US elected a new president, while Britain voted to leave the European Union – and both events left a big linguistic trail. Brexit had already been in Macmillan Dictionary since 2013, but in June its meaning changed, from referring to the (unlikely) possibility of Britain exiting the EU, […]

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  • Don’t dis this prefix

    Posted by on December 05, 2016

    The prefix dis- is commonly added to words to give them an opposite or contrasting sense. It entered English from Latin dis-, or in some cases from Old French des-. On his affixes website Michael Quinion says the prefix ‘had various linked senses in Latin, such as reversal, moving apart, removal or separation’, or sometimes […]

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  • Seachangers, salad days and skim milk

    Posted by on November 28, 2016

    In her third and final post about the links between the language of Shakespeare and the language of today, BuzzWord author Kerry Maxwell shows how the Bard’s metaphors live on in modern English. _____________ In Australian English, the word seachanger has in recent years become the catchy new way to describe a person who shuns […]

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  • ‘Net migration’: when does a term move from policy into the press?

    Posted by on November 21, 2016

    Our latest guest post looks at the fascinating topic of the language used to talk about migration. Will Allen is a Research Officer with The Migration Observatory and the Centre on Migration, Policy, and Society (COMPAS), both based at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the ways that media, public opinion, and policymaking […]

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  • Quoting Shakespeare – of icebreakers and idioms

    Posted by on November 09, 2016

    In the second of her posts about the links between the language of Shakespeare and the language of today, BuzzWord author Kerry Maxwell considers the Bard’s role in coining idioms we use without a second thought. _____________ English is a language rich in idioms and fixed phrases, language forms that trip unconsciously from the tongues […]

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