It’s Dictionary.com official: 2020 has changed language.
In its latest update for September, the online dictionary Dictionary.com announced massive changes to its entries, including new entries for Black, as it refers to a person, Afro-Latinx, deadname, and gender-inclusive, among many others.
Citing “the unprecedented events of 2020,” the digital dictionary updated 15,000 entries in total, which took the form of 650 new entries, 2,100 new definitions, 11,000 revised definitions, and other changes.
According to its announcement, this marks the biggest update Dictionary.com has made to date.
“The work of a dictionary is more than just adding new words. It’s an ongoing effort to ensure that how we define words reflects changes in language—and life,” John Kelly, senior editor at Dictionary.com, said in a release. “Our revisions are putting people, in all their rich humanity, first, and we’re extremely proud of that.”
Dictionary.com calls the capitalization of Black, in reference to people, “one of the most comprehensive—and important—updates to our dictionary.”
The site says the change “confers the due dignity to the shared identity, culture, and history of Black people,” and “aligns with the practice of using initial capital letters for many other ethnic groups and national identities.”
Notably, Dictionary.com lexicographers created an entire new entry for the word Black as it refers to people, which Dictionary.com called “a major—and extremely rare—move,” since different senses of words that share origins are typically included within one entry.
“Dictionaries are not merely a linguistic exercise or academic enterprise.”
“Dictionaries are not merely a linguistic exercise or academic enterprise. What are the effects of Black, referring to human beings, being grouped together with black, which can mean, among other things, ‘wicked’? The effects are social. They are psychological. They are personal,” the site said in its announcement. “How words are entered into the dictionary — especially words concerning our personal identities — have real effects on real people in the real world.”
Additionally, Dictionary.com replaced references to “homosexual” in its definitions with gay, gay man, gay woman, and “homosexuality” with gay sexual orientation.
According to the site’s announcement, this decision was informed by GLAAD recommendations and APA guidelines, as well as a desire to use people-first language.
Words that use “-sexual” (like bisexual and pansexual) will now be defined as “romantically, emotionally, or sexually attracted to,” as opposed to exclusively conveying romantic and sexual attraction.
In addition, a new entry for Pride, with a capital P, has been added “to better document the specific, widespread use of the term.”
The site also changed wording around mental health, addiction, and suicide. For instance, entries containing the phrase “commit suicide” are now replaced with “die by suicide” or “end one’s life,” and the use of the noun “addict” has changed to “a person addicted to or a habitual user of.”
Dictionary.com also defined and separated different terms often lumped under “emotional support animals” and “therapy animals” to include more terms, like service animals and assistance animals, since what these animals provide, and what training is required of them, differs based on the term.
More terms about the human impact on the natural word have been added as well, such as “extinct in the wild,” “ecoanxiety,” and “critically endangered.”