Language is always evolving. As culture changes, society innovates, and trends come and go, our language changes right along with it.
Every decade, new words are coined in the English language. You will be surprised at how old—or how new—words that you use every day are.
So, we’ve picked out our favorite neologisms, from broadcaster to yuppie, that were coined during the past century. Did you know when these words first appeared?
Words from the 1910s
- pipsqueak (n.): “a derogatory term for something or someone small and insignificant,” as in That annoying little pipsqueak couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. This term is said to come from the sound a small and helpless animal, like a mouse, might make.
- nosedive: “to descend rapidly in a plane with the nose pointing down.” Specifically found in 1912 (n.) and 1915 (v.) as in The plane went into a nosedive from 20,000 feet, and the passengers were just holding on for dear life.
- bullshit (n.): “a lie, exaggeration, or other nonsense.” From 1910–15, as in I’m too tired to listen to your bullshit about why you didn’t do your chores like I asked.
Words from the 1920s
- broadcaster (n.): “a person or organization that broadcasts, or disseminates, radio or television programs.” Specifically found in 1922, as in Every night, our family would tune in to watch the news from our favorite broadcaster, David Frost, on the BBC.
- hijack (v.): “to steal a vehicle or its contents by threat of force.” Specifically found in 1923 as in The rebels hijacked the truck and drove away with it into the forest.
- twerp (n.): “an insignificant or despicable fellow.” Specifically found in 1925 as in My little brother is such a twerp for stealing all of my Halloween candy. According to folk etymology, the word comes from the proper name of Oxford student T. W. Earp, who was resented because he was just so great (there is no evidence this story is true).
- gluten-free (adj.): “not containing gluten,” which was specifically found in 1927 like in the sentence The gluten-free oatmeal is used to make muffins for mass-production. 1927, people!
- jitters (n.): “feeling of fright, nervousness, or uneasiness.” Found in 1920–25 as in Doesn’t this haunted house give you the jitters?
Words from the 1930s
- teleportation (n.): “the movement of a body or object through space by psychic ability or advanced technology.” Specifically found in 1931 in physics, and 1951 in science fiction. For example: The crowd was shocked by the teleportation of the doll from one side of the stage to the other as the medium sat in a deep trance.
- raunchy (adj.): “incompetent, sloppy; dirty.” Specifically found in 1939 as in By six o’clock, the raunchy old men were at the bar, half drunk. The term is said to come from Air Force cadets in Texas. While the origin is unknown, it’s been suggested that it comes from the American Spanish rancho, “large stock farm and herding establishment” and its relationship to animal filth.
Words from the 1940s
- carpool (or car-pool) (n.): “an arrangement where people share rides or take turns driving from one place to another.” Specifically found in 1942 as in All of the parents in the cul-de-sac took turns driving the carpool to school in the morning.
- defuse (v.): “to remove the fuse from a bomb or other explosive; to make a situation less tense or dangerous (figuratively).” Specifically found in 1943 as in Everyone moved quickly to defuse the bomb that was set to go off in five minutes.
- retiree (n.): “someone who has retired from an occupation or profession.” Specifically found in 1945 as in My grandmother is a retiree, but she still volunteers three days a week at the local school.
- sociopath (n.): “someone who demonstrates antisocial personality, particularly a lack of conscience,” as in Not all sociopaths are criminals, although many of them can be quite manipulative.
Words from the 1950s
- brainwashing (or brain-washing) (n.): “systematic indoctrination through the use of psychological techniques, drugs, and/or violence,” as in Some of the brainwashing techniques that harmful cults use are repetition of doctrine, isolation from support systems outside of the group, and sleep deprivation. The term came to the United States in the aftermath of the Korean War, when the American public became gripped by the fear that G.I.s had been tortured and brainwashed in prisoner of war camps. The word is a literal translation of the Chinese term xi (wash) nao (brain).
- fast food (n.): “food that can be made quickly and inexpensively, such as hamburgers.” Specifically found in 1951 as in The school didn’t allow fast food to be served in the cafeteria, but that didn’t stop students from bringing hamburgers and pizza from home.
- UFO (n.): “acronym for unidentified flying object, such as an alien spaceship.” Specifically found in 1953 as in The alien enthusiast group stood out in the desert with their cameras, hoping to spot a UFO or come into contact with extraterrestrials.
- moisturizer (n.): “a cream or lotion used to restore moisture to the skin.” Specifically found in 1957 as in Before she went to bed, she put moisturizer on her face to protect it from the dry night air.
Words from the 1960s
- data base (n.): “a collection of data, specifically on a computer (database by 1971).” Specifically found in 1962 as in Our data base of all dog owners in the county will be down this weekend for maintenance.
- scam (n. or v.): “a confidence game or type of fraud, typically for making money.” Specifically found in 1963 as in If you get an email from a “Nigerian prince,” it is probably a scam to steal your bank account or credit card information.
- gaslighting (n.): “to convince someone they are going crazy in order to manipulate them as part of an abusive relationship.” Specifically found in 1961 (gaslight (v): 1956) as in My partner convinced me that they hadn’t eaten my dessert, I had simply forgotten to buy more candy. When I saw the wrappers under their bed, I knew they were gaslighting me. The term comes from the 1944 remake of the 1940 film Gaslight where a man convinces his wife she is going insane. The name of the film comes from the fact that when the man is searching for his family treasures in the attic every night, the gas lights in the house dim … although he denies this fact to his wife.
Words from the 1970s
- gentrify (v.): “to develop a low-income urban neighborhood in a way that appeals to middle- and upper-class tastes, raising property values in a way that displaces low-income residents.” Specifically found in 1972 (gentrification (n.) 1973) as in This neighborhood used to have many rundown houses, but after it was gentrified, they were torn down to make way for luxury condos. The term comes from the notion of the gentry class, the people below the nobility in traditional class hierarchies.
- wuss (n.): “a weakling, wimp.” Specifically found in 1976 (wussy (n.): 1977) as in Don’t be such a wuss—just try it!
- deal breaker (n.): “a characteristic or an issue that would cause a party to withdraw from a negotiation or relationship.” Specifically found in 1975 as in I cannot agree to the terms of this contract. Adding another pool would be a deal breaker for me.
Words from the 1980s
- carbo-loading (n.): “consuming a large amount of carbohydrates, specifically before an athletic event such as a marathon.” (carbo-load (v.): 1983.) As in The night before the big race, Nabil was carbo-loading.
- text messaging (n.): “communication by means of electronic communication, particularly via cell phone.” Specifically found in 1981 as in The communications company offers a text messaging service in order to keep traders informed of stock prices.
- yuppie (n.): “a young urban professional.” Specifically found in 1984 as in It was brunch, and the yuppies were out in force, drinking rosé and taking pictures of their food. The term comes from the first letters of young urban professional (YUP).
- channel-surfing (v.): “to switch from channel to channel on the television quickly.” Specifically found in 1986 as in Late-night channel-surfing was her favorite pastime.
- tighty-whities (n.): “a slang term for white, close-fitting men’s underwear.” Specifically from 1985–90 as in He answered the door looking confused, wearing nothing but his tighty-whities and a bathrobe.
Words from the 1990s
- fashionista (n.): “a very fashionable person.” Specifically from 1993 as in With her stylish looks and daring haircuts, the influencer was known as a fashionista.
- blog (n.): “a website with a writer or a group of writer’s essays or thoughts; a post or entry on such a website.” Specifically found in 1999 as in Caroline posted a defensive screed on her blog about how all the haters were just out to get her. The word is an abbreviation of the older term weblog (as in web log).
Words from the 2000s
- binge-watch (v.): “to watch many or all of the episodes of a TV show or series of movies in one sitting.” Specifically found in 2003 as in My plan this weekend is to binge-watch all of the Mighty Ducks movies.
- hot take (n.): “a polemic or counterintuitive opinion, commentary, or piece of journalism.” Specifically found in 1995 as in Social media was outraged that the celebrity published a hot take opining that a taco is a sandwich.
- unfriend (v.): “to remove someone from a list of friends on social media, particularly Facebook.” Specifically found in 2007 as in He logged on to find that his ex had unfriended him and all of his friends.
- paywall (n.): “a system where access to some or part of a website is blocked except for paid subscribers.” Specifically found in 2004 as in After four articles, the rest of the newspaper was hidden behind a paywall.
Words from the 2010s
- manspread (v.): “to sit with one’s legs far apart, particularly in a shared space, such that you take up more than your own seat (particularly of men).” Specifically found in 2014 as in When the guy sitting next to her tried to manspread, she glared at him and shoved her purse to block her space.
- deadname (v.): “to use the name given at birth of a transgender person that they no longer use.” Specifically found in 2014 as in It is incredibly insensitive and rude when people deadname Caitlyn Jenner.
Are there any words from the past 100 years you particularly love? Let us know!