9 Unexpected Words that Made It into the Dictionary in 2022

Previous additions include “hybrid,” “staycation,” and “essential worker.” But what can we find in the 2022 dictionary updates?

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In an age where internet trends have an unbelievably short lifespan, the English vocabulary is constantly adding and losing words and phrases. Month to month, week to week, and even day to day, we learn and define new words or redefine old ones. It’s a wonder official dictionaries can keep up at this rate. But taking a look at dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Merriam-Webster provides insight into the most impactful moments in the English language each year.

For example, the OED in 2021 saw the addition of “social distance” (for obvious reasons), “deadname,” and even Korean words like “aegyo” (likely from the recent boom in K-Pop). An update can include hundreds of new entries and sub-entries every few months. It’s hard to imagine how many words are now documented since the first English dictionary was published in 1604.

Although 2022 has a few months left to create words, phrases, and meanings we’ve never heard before, let’s take a look at a few confirmed additions to the OED and to Merriam-Webster. Some of these might be unexpected or words we thought were already part of the official English language.

Oxford English Dictionary

Ankle-Biting: The action of biting a person’s ankle or ankles.

Though this might often be used to describe animals like dogs, sometimes we hear people call someone an “ankle-biter.” In this case, they don’t literally mean they bite ankles, but rather that they are either a small child or a short adult. In younger circles, at least, it’s used to poke fun.

photo of man and a nurse about to administer a vaccination

Vaxxed: That has undergone vaccination; vaccinated. Often with modifying word, as fully, partially, etc.

Perhaps this isn’t too unexpected, but there are plenty of slang words that aren’t in the dictionary that we may use more often. However, the pandemic made this a very common phrase in everyday life. The modifiers that go with it also made this word almost an identifier among society in the past few years.

Enby: (Colloquial) A person who has a non-binary gender identity.

I’ve mostly seen this word used among people who identify as non-binary. It’s clearly shorthand for “non-binary” and the phonetic pronunciation of “NB.” I think as time progresses, vocabulary that the LGBTQ+ community use themselves will make its way into the dictionary.

added to dictionary

Sharenting: The action or practice of sharing news, images, or videos of one’s own children on social media websites.

We’ve all seen this happen: Parents become influencers using their children as content or our relatives post their children for the rest of their friends and family to see. People have mixed feelings about this because children don’t have a choice. It’s an interesting phenomenon that came about with the rise of social media and the daily update style of posting.


Laggy: Having a delayed or slow response (as to a user’s input): marked or affected by lag.

If you’ve played online video games, or really any game that requires your input, you may be familiar with lag. The characters might be late in responding to the buttons you press. I’m sure this has been around the gaming community for a long time, but it’s made its way into more mainstream media and, thus, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.


Cringe: So embarrassing, awkward, etc., as to cause one to cringe.

Young people are the gods of pointing out when something is cringe. Especially younger Gen Z. Anything they find even the slightest bit out of their norm is automatically cringe (and a bit sad for us older Gen Z who thought we were cool).

Yeet: Used to express surprise, approval, or excited enthusiasm; (verb) to throw, especially with force and without regard for the thing being thrown.

Anyone who was familiar with Vine at its peak knows the origin of the silly word that almost seems onomatopoeic. The iconic empty-can-throwing Vine changed the course of social media history. “Yeet” was everywhere, and though its use has dwindled now, there are still cases where it’s used properly and doesn’t cause people to cringe.

Birria dish in a white bowl garnished with scallions.

Birria: A Mexican dish of stewed meat seasoned especially with chili peppers.

If you’ve had the pleasure of tasting this amazing dish, count yourself lucky. It’s interesting to see a non-English word added to the dictionary. Of course, it’s not unheard of, but it goes to show how impactful trends can be on the English language. It’s a Mexican dish that blew up on social media and is now an entry in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

Mojo: A sauce, marinade, or seasoning that is usually composed primarily of olive oil, garlic, citrus juice, and spices (such as black pepper and cumin).

If you’re interested in reading about other new entries this year or in previous years, check out the Oxford English Dictionary here or Merriam-Webster here.

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