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The lexicography of politics: a new update of Macmillan Dictionary

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

Earlier this month, Macmillan Dictionary published another of its regular updates. One function of the updates is to increase the coverage of specialist terminology from different semantic areas or fields of study.  Recent updates have focused on legal language and names of countries, nationalities and languages, for example. This latest one added over 200 terms from the field of political science. These range from entries for specialist terms like core executive, district magnitude and global governance to more generally used terms such as hard power, direct democracy and social contract.

This is not all that was added, however. As well as a number of new legal entries from our consultant Kevin Pike, we added terms from Australian, Welsh and Indian English. Examples include stinger net and stuvac, bach and cwtch; rowdy sheeter and lunch home. We also promoted a large number of derived words that are sufficiently frequent to merit entries of their own. With the unlimited space offered by having the dictionary online, there is no longer any need to confine words like academically or gladness to a couple of lines at the end of an entry. Instead they have been given their own entries, with full grammatical information, pronunciations, definitions and examples. While some of these promoted words are simple one-sense entries with simple meanings such as ‘in a … way’ or ‘the quality of being …’, others are surprisingly complex, with several different meanings and their own grammatical and collocational patterns. Take a look at firmly or heaviness to see what I mean.

As always, we have also added a large number of general new words to the dictionary. These range from recent coinages such as deepfake, 5G and growth hacking to words that have been around for a while but have become newly topical or relevant, such as gaslighting, whataboutery or nativism. We have also added several new terms for types of pasta, from bucatini and tortellini to pelmeni, a type of filled pasta eaten in Russia.

The entry for pelmeni started life as a submission to our crowdsourced Open Dictionary from one of our regular contributors. Many of our new entries started life in this way; other examples are regift and blended family. Where an entry is based on a contribution by one of our users this is acknowledged at the end of the entry, together with the date of submission. We are extremely grateful to our Open Dictionary contributors who draw our attention to new terms and uses we might otherwise miss.

Macmillan Dictionary is more than just words, of course. We have been adding steadily to the images that enliven the entries and often are able to show what the entry is referring to far more quickly than words. Last time around we added many beautiful images of flowers and flowering plants. This time it was the turn of trees: have a look at the entry for oak or at this one for deciduous to see what I mean. If you would like to test your knowledge of trees, there is also a fun quiz for you to try.

The English language is constantly changing and through our regular updates we are able to keep tabs on some of these changes. The next update is already in preparation, so keep an eye on the website to see what it contains.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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