Home & Living

20 Words That Helped Define The Decade

These terms rose to popular use and officially entered dictionaries in the 2010s.

There are many factors that define a decade ― news events, works of entertainment, technological advancements, fashion trends and more. Perhaps nothing encapsulates all of these factors more than the words and phrases we use.

As the decade comes to a close, we rounded up 20 words and phrases that rose to popular use and even entered dictionaries between 2010 and 2019. While many obviously relate to technology, others point to social movements, pop culture events and even food trends.

The new words added to dictionaries often capture moments in time. 
The new words added to dictionaries often capture moments in time. 

Hashtag

Popularized by Twitter, “hashtag” was the American Dialect Society’s word of the year in 2012. The word, which refers to the octothorpe, pound or number symbol, entered the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary in 2014. The 2010s also saw the rise of specific hashtag movements like #BlackLivesMatter, #WhyIStayed and #MeToo.

FOMO

The acronym-word “FOMO” aka “fear of missing out” is emblematic of the kind of anxiety that has boomed in the age of social media. The OED added FOMO in 2013, and Merriam-Webster followed suit three years later.

Bingeable

The influence of the binge-watching approach to television is evident in the fact that “bingeable” officially entered Merriam-Webster’s dictionary in 2018. Other TV-related terms that became dictionary-official in the 2010s include “hate-watch” and “bottle episode.”

Latinx

This gender-neutral alternative to Latina and Latino joined the Merriam-Dictionary roster in late 2018 and the OED in 2019. The word represents the broadening awareness of gender identity and intersectionality over the past 10 years.

Self-Care

The millennial interest in self-care was a big movement of the 2010s, so it’s only natural that Merriam-Webster would add that the term “self-care” in 2018.

Crowdfunding

With the rise of platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the practice of “crowdfunding” became increasingly common over the past decade ― so much so that Merriam-Webster added the term in 2014. The addition of crowdfunding comes after “crowdsourcing” officially joined in 2011.

Helicopter Parent

Merriam-Webster officially added the term “helicopter parent” to its collegiate dictionary in 2011, though the phrase and general metaphor date back decades further. The 2010s were defined by many parenting debates, ranging from the pros and cons of the “helicopter” approach to the newer concept of “lawn mower parenting.”

Athleisure

Comfortable, athletic clothing like yoga pants became incredibly popular in the 2010s. Thus “athleisure” was added to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary in 2016. On a related note, the comfort-focused “jegging” entered the dictionary in 2015.

Truther

The OED added the political conspiracy-focused word “truther” in 2015. Merriam-Webster did the same in early 2017, as the U.S. entered an era of truth-doubting terms like “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Flexitarian

Many people have started adopting more plant-based diets in recent years, cutting down on meat without fulling eliminating it. The term “flexitarian” entered the OED in 2014 and Merriam-Webster in 2012. Other new food words include the free-food scavenging “freegan,” which entered Merriam-Webster in 2014, “hangry,” which became official in 2018, and the veggie-focused “zoodles,” which also joined in 2018.

Stan

After countless articles explored the origins of the phrase “to stan,” the OED added the fan-culture term in 2018. Merriam-Webster did the same in 2019.

Microaggression

This term for a small comment or action that communicates prejudice or hostility toward a marginalized group joined Dictionary.com in 2015, Merriam-Webster in 2017 and the OED in 2018.

Meme

Although the origins of the term “meme” date back to the 1970s, the word blew up in the 2010s and joined Merriam-Webster in 2015.

Alt-Right

The rise of the “alt-right” white nationalist movement in the U.S. has been well documented, so it makes sense that the term would reach dictionary status with Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com in 2017 ― followed by the OED in 2018.

Ping

“Ping” got a new definition in Merriam-Webster in 2017 when the dictionary added the sense of contacting someone via a brief digital message.

Glamping

Many a portmanteau increased in use in the 2010s. That includes “glamping” ― i.e. the combinatin of glamor/glamorous and camping ― which joined the OED in 2016 and Merriam-Webster’s dictionary in 2018.

Dox

The practice of maliciously publishing private information about an individual has become a common form of attack, leading to new legislation. Dictionary.com added the term to “dox” in 2015, and Merriam-Webster did the same the following year.

Mansplain

The 2010s saw increasing numbers of women pushing back against condescension from men in the workplace and in their personal lives. The term “mansplain” captures this movement, and in 2018, it was added to Merriam-Webster and the OED.

Emoji

The emoji explosion of the 2010s changed the way we communicate with each other, so it’s not surprising that the word entered Merriam-Webster’s dictionary in 2015. Individual emojis have even become part of dictionaries like the OED.

Selfie

People love to point to the rise of “selfies” in the 2010s as an indication of the decline of society. In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries named “selfie” as the word of the year. The following year, Merriam-Webster added “selfie” to its words roster. The word’s connection to social media and self-indulgence is reminiscent of another word that joined Merriam Webster in the 2010s: “humblebrag.”