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Word of the Day
Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Definitions for woke

  1. Slang. actively aware of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights: In light of recent incidents of police brutality, it’s important to stay woke. He took one African American history class and now he thinks he’s woke.
  2. Slang. aware of the facts, true situation, etc. (sometimes used facetiously): The moon landing was staged. Stay woke! A tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable. Stay woke.
  3. a simple past tense of wake.

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Citations for woke
It wasn't that I set out to do the first woke black-superhero show. It’s just that I wanted “Luke Cage” to reflect, in many ways, some of the people that I've come across on my journey. Cheo Hodari Coker, interviewed by Jelani Cobb, "Creating 'Luke Cage,' the First Woke Black Superhero Show," The New Yorker, October 5, 2016
John Rickford, a linguistics professor at Stanford University and co-author of “Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English,” told me that he was struck by how “woke,” which in standard English is simply a past-tense form of “wake,” has taken on new life as an adjective. He characterized it as “a creative extension of the grammar to achieve greater impact.” That grammatical creativity has been extended even further, as when a GQ article last year stated, “When it comes to wokeness, few are woker than [“Grey’s Anatomy” actor] Jesse Williams. ” Ben Zimmer, "‘Woke,’ From a Sleepy Verb to a Badge of Awareness," Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2017
Origin of woke
Woke in the figurative sense “well informed, up-to-date” is first recorded in the early 1960s. Its most recent sense, “actively aware of injustices and prejudices related to civil and human rights,” is associated with the Black Lives Matter movement (based on a slogan from the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter after the 2013 killing of Trayvon Martin), but the political sense also appears in the lyrics of the song “Master Teacher” (2008) by Erykah Badu (born 1971), in which “I stay woke” is the refrain.