“Unfriend”: Oxford's Word of the Year

Facebook term grabs New Oxford American Dictionary honor

New Oxford American Dictionary has announced the verb "unfriend" as its word of the year, confirming the social networking term's ubiquity.

The definition: "To remove someone as a 'friend' on a social networking site such as Facebook." 

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On its blog, Oxford University Press quotes Senior Lexicographer Christine Lindberg as saying: "It has both currency and potential longevity. In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year. Most 'un-' prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar 'un-' verbs (uncap, unpack), but 'unfriend' is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of 'friend' that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!). Unfriend has real lex-appeal."

Other techie terms that were considered: hashtag, intexticated, netbook, paywall and sexting.

Oxford didn't ignore Twitter either, citing a notable word cluster including Twitt, Tweeple and other Twitterish terms.

Last year's Word of the Year: "hypermiling," which involves "maximizing gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one's car and one's driving techniques."

Around the corner: Expect Merriam-Webster to announce its Word of the Year. Last year it was "bailout."

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