New major update for Macmillan Dictionary

20 November 2017

A host of new words and terms updated

20 November 2017

Hidden Figures passes the Bechdel test − just one of hundreds of new additions in the latest release of Macmillan Dictionary

A fresh update of Macmillan Dictionary has just gone live, and we have added a wealth of new and trending words to the mix. Words like trash talk, parkour (a kind of urban obstacle course), and social capital aren’t quite so newsworthy but they are popping up a lot in the language data. So too are othering (treating a group of people as if they are completely different) as well as the FANGs, an acronym reminiscent of the BRICs − except this one doesn’t refer to places but to giant tech corporations (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google).


Just as important to language change is the way old words can acquire new meanings. Actors aren’t just people you see in movies and TV dramas. The word now often refers to a person or institution involved in a situation − as in the need to inform policymakers, civil society, and other actors. You can detect similar shifts of meaning with words like snowflake (now an insult) and box set (which no longer refers to a physical object alone). With computer, though, the process goes the other way: the “new” meaning turns out to be very old. As far back as the 17th century, computer meant a person who does calculations. This older use seemed to have been lost − until it was revived in the recent movie Hidden Figures, which tells the story of a team of African-American women who worked as“computers” at NASA in the early 1960s.


Macmillan Dictionary continues to expand its coverage of World Englishes, adding ever more vocabulary from all parts of the English-speaking world. The focus this time is on the English spoken in Canada, and we have added about 50 Canadianisms, including words like eavestrough, keener, pogey, and CFA (“come from away” − someone who has moved in from another area or another country).


Another key area of expansion is the language of specialist fields of activity. Following our last update, which included about500 terms from the legal profession, we have now added dozens more examples of legal English, bringing the number of these to well over 700. The biggest innovation in this latest release is the addition of numerous terms from the world of English Language Teaching − words such as differentiated instruction, back-channelling, lexical density, and communicative approach, making Macmillan Dictionary the go-to resource for anyone involved in language teaching.


Commenting on the latest update, Macmillan Dictionary Editor-in-Chief Michael Rundell said:

Staying up to date with our rapidly changing language is a big part of what we do at Macmillan Dictionary. We are supported in this task by our users, who can submit their suggestions through the crowdsourced Open Dictionary. Users’ submissions are checked and if necessary, edited, to ensure that we provide the most accurate information about meaning and usage. Macmillan Dictionary offers a range of useful resources too: BuzzWord articles, blog posts, quizzes, videos about Real World English – all designed for anyone who would like to learn more about or improve their English.

Notes to Editors:

About Macmillan Education:

Macmillan Education is one of the world’s leading educational publishers, operating in over 120 countries worldwide. We publish ELT and school curriculum materials in print, digital and online formats to suit the needs of classrooms around the world, and we support teachers by offering the training they need to deliver the best experience to their students. For more information, please visit


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