Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Tweet Is Now a Real Word, and the Oxford English Dictionary Says So

oxford_english_dictionaryThe act of tweeting — that is, posting to Twitter — is now formally recognized as a part of the English language by the official arbiter of such things, the Oxford English Dictionary.

OED chief editor John Simpson announced the addition of the word — both as a noun and as a verb — in his June update.

Obviously the word “tweet” was in the dictionary before, dating back to at least 1851 as an imitative word for bird calls. But the definition has now been expanded to include its use to include: “To make a posting on the social networking service Twitter. Also: to use Twitter regularly or habitually.” It also includes its use as a noun for the messages.

One weird thing about this: The OED had already added “retweet” as far back as 2011, alongside such gems as “mankini,” “jeggings” and “sexting.” No explanation from Simpson why “retweet” got in first.

The addition, Simpson said, violates at least one rule for inclusion in the OED, specifically the one that says that a “new word needs to be current for 10 years before consideration for inclusion. But it seems to be catching on,” he wrote.

Whatever the reason, “tweet” was just one of a batch of tech-related words and phrases added to the OED in the last year. Among the others is “big data,” the fashionable phrase and subject of glossy photo books that evokes the act of analyzing large data sets for otherwise undetectable patterns.

Other tech-related words added this year are “crowdsourcing,” “mouseover,” “e-reader” and “re-direct.”


Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik