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Open Dictionary Word of the Year: casting couch

Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

2017 was a bumper year for the Open Dictionary, with over 1700 entries published out of more than 4100 submissions. That’s a hit rate of just over 40%, so if you have a word or phrase that isn’t in Macmillan Dictionary and that you think deserves to be in, do submit it. And a huge thank you to all our contributors, from those who send us submissions every week and those who only do it once or twice. The Open Dictionary is a unique exercise in crowdsourced lexicography, and every entry that is accepted helps to make Macmillan Dictionary even better. In order to pay proper tribute to your contributions, if an entry that you submit is promoted into the main dictionary, we will acknowledge your submission like this.

It isn’t possible to give more than a snapshot of the huge variety of last year’s submissions. Alphabetically they ranged from abdabs (an attack of anxiety) to zori (Japanese sandals worn on formal occasions). The subjects covered included everything from advertising (adtech) to science (adiabatic, amastigote) via business (dynamic pricing, nearshore), computing (botnet, several cyber compounds), economics (circular economy), medicine (iatrogenic, chloasma) and a dozen other specialisms. Stylistically we had everything from the highly formal (amative, bibliotaph, discompose) to the very informal (boringer, wsup, yous), with a good sprinkling of archaic and literary terms as well (accompt, betake and effulgent among them).

Open Dictionary contributors have always been good on food and 2017 was no exception, with entries for edibles from angel-hair pasta to zoodles and many more in between. Politics, inevitably, figured prominently: over a dozen new entries feature the name of the US President, from Trump bump to Trumponomics. Other political entries include America firsterism, Antifa, Bremoaner, Brexodus, as well as related terms such as alternative fact, the EU27 (the EU countries without the UK), information warfare, nothingburger, kompromat, post-fact and of course fake news. Gender relations featured, with entries for hepeat, womansplain, and womance (a very close friendship between women, modelled on bromance). Social trends were reflected in items such as delocation, forest bathing, graddy annexe, grammable, love bombing, modestwear, omnivory, off-rolling and whataboutism.

Perhaps surprisingly, the OD has not yet greatly felt the impact of the latest feminist wave symbolized by the #MeToo and Times Up movements, but it’s early days. One submission that gives an indication of the cultural shift that is underway is casting couch. Macmillan Dictionary has an entry for this, and it is probably typical of most existing dictionary definitions in taking a neutral view of the practice, even labelling it humorous. Recent events have called such an approach into question, and a revised version of the entry will undoubtedly be informed by the much less forgiving view expressed by a submission to the Open Dictionary in October. So casting couch is my OD word of the year, because it shows how language changes in response to cultural and social change. Our ability to keep track of these changes is greatly enhanced by your input.

If you have your own suggestions for a Word of the Year please do add them using the Comments box under this post. Thanks for all your submissions during 2017 and do keep them coming. If there’s a word or expression that you think deserves inclusion in the Open Dictionary you can submit it here. Don’t forget to check first to make sure your word isn’t in our dictionary already.

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About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter


  • One of my choral directors, a German, used to say when we did something awful to Bach: that sort of singing is absolutely
    INBELIEVABLE, beyond speech, and way beyond unbelievable!

    Surprised to see that iatrogenic came in only last year as we in mental health have been using it forever.


    Redmond O’Hanlon.

  • Thanks for that observation Redmond. I don’t know if INBELIEVABLE will catch on, but it’s very expressive.
    With regard to iatrogenic: Macmillan Dictionary started life as a print dictionary for learners and with space severely limited we had to make some hard choices about the types of words to include. The emphasis then as now was on helping learners with the core vocabulary of English. One of the joys of going electronic is that we are now able to include all the words we want, including technical and specialist vocabulary. Our Open Dictionary contributors are very good at plugging some of the gaps.

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