How to Get a Word in the Dictionary

by Janet Wooldridge
There are over one million words in the English language.

There are over one million words in the English language.

The English language added the one millionth word to the lexicon in June 2009. It is the official language in hundreds of countries, and as the most widely used language on the World Wide Web, it is truly a global language. With an average of 14 new words being added to the language daily, the list continues to grow. You may wonder how to get a word into the dictionary. Here is some information and tips you will need.

Introduce Word

Determine that the word you are seeking to get into the dictionary is used widely and often. If you think a word should be added to the dictionary you can submit it to individual dictionary publishers.

Research the extent of the use of the word. According to the Global Language Monitor, a word's use is measured by depth, which is the number of citations, and by breadth, which is the geographical extent of use. A minimum of 25,000 citations from various sources is necessary for a word to be considered by the GLM.

Send the publisher quotations and proof that the word is being used. A word's use is researched by language trackers and dictionary staffs through the Internet, newspapers and other media sources.

Enter a word that you think should be in the dictionary through sources such as the Open Word Dictionary on the Merriam-Webster Online site or the Incomings department at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

Encourage others to use and promote the word that you hope to get into the dictionary. Successful campaigns, such as Stephen Colbert's famous introduction of "truthiness", have been known to speed up the process.

Tip

  • Keep in mind that different dictionaries have different requirements and the process takes time. For example, the OED requires that a word be used multiple times by multiple sources for at least five years.

Warning

  • Words that are considered jargon for one particular group are not generally considered unless they become more widely used.

Items you will need

  • a word Internet access

About the Author

Based in Gloucester, Va., Janet Wooldridge is a freelance writer and proofreader who began writing professionally in 2008. Her work focuses on topics in education, environmentalism, child care, research and tourism. She holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in secondary education from the University of Florida.

Photo Credits

  • from flickr via Global Language Monitor