Language is always changing. In 2022, 650 new English words were added to the Oxford English Dictionary – ranging from slang terms to professional titles and sports manoeuvers. As the world around us evolves, so too do the ways that we describe it and our experiences within it. And, with more people traveling the globe and working remotely, it’s no surprise that many of the new words in English are inspired by other languages.
Beyond impressing your friends with the latest phrases, staying up to date with new words is great to improve your English language skills. Understanding new words expands your vocabulary pool, helps you contextualize terms, and develops your confidence.
Below, we’ve collected some of the new English words you need to know in 2023. Try using them in your next English conversation and you may just find yourself teaching native English speakers a thing or two!
Words of the year
Did you know there’s an annual competition for English words? Dictionaries announce the word of the year based on factors like popularity, cultural significance, and the number of searches for a term. The word of the year changes depending on the dictionary. In 2022, these were the winners for three of the most popular ones.
Oxford Dictionary: Goblin mode
A goblin is a fictional creature from European folklore, known for being mischievous and messy. ‘Goblin mode’ is therefore a funny way to refer to someone who is being lazy and self-indulgent. The slang term was first used in 2019, but became widespread during the pandemic lockdown, when people were indoors for long periods of time and embraced being goblin-like.
Example: I’m in goblin mode, so I can’t come to meet you.
Cambridge Dictionary: Homer
‘Homer’ is short for ‘home run’, which is when a player scores a point in baseball by hitting the ball and running around all the bases before the ball is retrieved. ‘Homer’ was one of the most searched terms in the Cambridge Dictionary in 2022 after it was the winning word in the game Wordle. In one day, ‘Homer’ was searched 65,000 times.
Example: He hit 12 homers – a new record for the team.
Although one of the oldest words in English, the word ‘woman’ has been at the center of cultural conversations in 2022. High-profile events and debates have sparked conversations about the definition of ‘woman’, and in this year alone, searches for the word increased by 1,400%.
Example: Georgina identified as a woman.
New English words to learn in 2023
Data (including text) that has been copied and pasted online is known as ‘copypasta’. It can be lighthearted content that is spread for likes, or it can be a serious political message. ‘Copypasta’ was prominent in the pandemic, where people claimed it was used for misinformation around the virus and its treatment.
Example: The copypasta on Twitter is getting out of hand.
2. Trip stacking
A strategy used to make reservations for multiple separate vacations. ‘Trip stacking’ includes booking accommodation, restaurants, and activities for different locations in one go. The strategy became popular during the pandemic, when travel plans were heavily disrupted.
Example: We’re trip stacking for the summer break.
3. Place lag
The sensation of surprise and disorientation after you make a long plane journey and arrive in a new place. Similar to ‘jet lag’ but refers to an emotional feeling toward an unfamiliar location. Like ‘trip stacking’, ‘place lag’ became popular after pandemic lockdowns, when people’s perspective on travel and the world was dramatically altered.
Example: The place lag hit him hard when he stepped off the plane.
The act of taking away someone’s ability to spread a message on a large scale. To ‘deplatform’ is a figurative act, and typically refers to removing someone from a social media platform. ‘Deplatform’ is linked to cancel culture, and the responsibility of tech companies to police hate speech and misinformation.
Example: The website has taken action to deplatform the brand after recent events.
The reduction in size of goods over time but the price stays the same. Normally refers to food items but can apply to other purchases. ‘Shrinkflation’ results in a higher cost per unit for customers. Many people were concerned about ‘shrinkflation’ in the recession and economic uncertainty of 2022.
Example: Shrinkflation made it difficult for Tony to buy groceries for a big family on a budget.
6. At (don’t ‘at’ me)
The use of ‘at’ as a verb, particularly to argue with another person on social media or disagree with someone’s opinion. ‘At’ in this context stems from the @ sign, where people tag usernames to reply to content that they have shared.
Example: The band’s second album was disappointing. Don’t at me.
7. Churn rate
The number or percentage of employees that leave a company in a specified time frame. ‘Churn rate’ surged in popularity in 2022, when The Great Resignation happened, where millions of workers left their jobs. ‘Churn rate’ can also be applied to other contexts, such as a metric to measure the number of people who have stopped using a product or service.
Example: The company’s churn rate increased after it required employees to work from the office.
The verb to intentionally promote something as environmentally-friendly (or less environmentally damaging) than is true – typically to gain more customers or improve sentiment toward a brand. Many organizations were accused of ‘greenwashing’ in 2022, after new laws were introduced to encourage lower carbon emissions.
Example: We’ll greenwash the public if we don’t include all operation numbers in the report.
9. Level up
To advance or improve. ‘Level up’ originates from games, where users unlock new levels as they progress. Normally refers to a person or a particular skill.
Example: I want to level up my wardrobe with some new clothes.
10. Hard pass
To firmly say ‘no’ to something or reject an offer. ‘Pass’ is a less strong, and more polite, version of ‘hard pass’, which is better suited to informal settings. The term gained popularity in the pandemic, when people were more likely to turn down suggestions to socialize (especially if they were in ‘goblin mode’).
Example: They want to go to the city center on a Saturday? Hard pass from me.
These are just a sample of the hundreds of new words in English this year. For a more extensive list of new words in 2023, take a look at the Oxford Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster Dictionary blogs.
Discover the ELSA Dictionary feature
If you come across any new words in English and don’t know what they mean (or are unsure of how to say them) – don’t worry! With our Dictionary feature you can:
- Check the definition of a word
- Listen to the pronunciation
- Read an example sentence
- Add it to a study set (or create a new one)
- And even watch other people saying the word in context!