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Merriam-Webster’s “Time Traveler” Tracks the First Known Use of Words by Year

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2020

A list of words first used in 1973

The English language, for better or worse, is constantly shifting and changing, with dozens of new and useful words being added to our collective vocabulary each year. With Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler tool, you can browse what new words were first used in years dating all the way back to 1500 (and even earlier). The obvious thing is to look up your birth year, so I did that and then poked around for some other interesting years.

1973 (my birth year): automated teller machine, bikini wax, closed-captioning, gender dysphoria, hot tub, Joe Six-Pack, LCD, reverse engineer, soccer mom, televangelist.

2007 (the year my son was born): Bechdel Test, hashtag, retweet, crowdfunding, DM.

1969: ageism, crystal meth, gangbanger, in vitro fertilization, life coach, point guard, sexual harassment, sport utility vehicle.

1945: A-bomb, cold war, d’oh, game theory, graffiti, name-dropping, passive-aggressive.

1929: antiviral, blue-collar, burp, eyeliner, Marxism-Leninism, penicillin, preteen, QWERTY, Sasquatch, spacecraft.

1865: anti-Muslim, baseball cap, gasoline, pessimistic, potato chip, showerhead.

1776: anthrax, division of labor, killjoy, natural resource, slaveholder, sour cream.

1619: bungled, diagram, libelous, retributive, sarcasm.

1561: aristocracy, curator, index, orgy, random, tarantula, well-being.

1500: cadaver, illness, minion, polite.

This is extremely inexpensive time travel. Almost every year is a gold mine (1605!) of terms that are seemingly out of time, either too early or too late. Careful, you might lose several hours to this. (thx, megan)