Oxford English Dictionary Revises Meaning of “Tweet” and Adds Tech-related Words

The publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) refer to it as “the definitive record of the English language.” Perhaps it’s because of this distinction that the people behind it felt compelled to revamp its “tweet” entry. Noun and verb definitions for “tweet” that connotes its Twitter usage are now official. To “tweet” is not exclusive to birds anymore.

The prominent reference’s cousin publication, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary went ahead to add “retweet” (“to repost or forward a message posted by another user on Twitter”) to its list of words and meanings two years ago.

What is the meaning of “tweet?”

“Tweet” still means “a brief, high-pitched sound.” But the latest quarterly update now has additional entries for “tweet” in the Oxford English Dictionary. The meaning of the word now includes “a posting made on the social networking service Twitter” for the noun and “to make a posting on the social networking service Twitter” for the verb. These 21st century additions are found alongside bird-related definitions of “tweet” that have been in use since the 16th century. The OED has been in publication in the 19th century.

Breaking the rules

Typically, a word in popular usage ought to be in existence for about ten years before it becomes part of the Oxford English dictionary. The chief editor of the dictionary, John Simpson said that the need to include the social networking usage of “tweet” has become necessary because “tweeting” is “catching on.” Twitter was launched in July 2006.

Aside from “tweet” around 1,200 mostly tech-related words were added for the June 2013 update of the online version of the dictionary. Now, the Oxford has more credibility labeling itself “the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language over the last millennium.”

New and revised words

“Tweet” is just one of the entries expanded to accommodate modern denotation. The other revised entries are the verb “stream,” another verb “follow,” and the noun “follower” to include current use in the social media and Internet context.

The latest version of the OED also includes words such as “big data,” “crowdsourcing,” “dad dancing,” “e-reader” “flash mob,” “fiscal cliff,” “fracking,” “geekery,” and “mouseover.” The OED now has a total of 823,000 entries. Some of the words may already be familiar, but for those who have no idea what “dad dancing” is, it pertains to the funky dance floor moves made by dads at the height of the wedding season. The OED’s definition is far less cryptic, defining “dad dancing as “an awkward, unfashionable, or unrestrained style of dancing to pop music, as characteristically performed by middle-aged or older men.” “OMG” and “LOL” were already included in last year’s update.

Perhaps the most surprising choice for this particular OED update is the inclusion of the popular “The Simpsons” catchphrase “to have a cow.” The phrase took more than 50 years to make it to the OED. It may have been made popular by the animated television comedy show but the phrase originated way back in 1959.

Photo Credit: Modified Twitter logo initial to include tweeting bird.


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