New words – 28 December 2015

digital amnesia

digital amnesia noun the inability to remember basic things, such as telephone numbers, dates, etc. as a result of over-reliance on mobile phones, the Internet etc for storing information

The problem, dubbed ‘digital amnesia’ is a result of our brains adapting to an age where our phone, and the internet, is always available, scientists say.

[ 01 July 2015]

pocket dial verb informal to call someone by accident with a phone that is in your pocket

How many times have you answered your phone only to find out that someone has ‘pocket dialed’ you by accident.

[ 28 July 2015]

ride-hailing service noun an on-demand car service for which people use a smartphone app to arrange a ride

Uber, the ride-hailing service, lost a round in its fight for legality in Brazil.

[ 20 September 2015]

About new words

New words – 21 December 2015


bruh noun slang used as a form of address, usually between male friends

I’ve been working out a bit, and I thought it’d help me see the gaaainzz (do you even lift, bruh?).

[ 02 July 2015]



unspo noun informal, humorous ideas and images relating to unhealthy or unsuccessful lives

A snap of congealed macaroni cheese; a post-gym selfie, complete with blotchy face.So far, so unglamorous. Welcome to the world of ‘unspo’ – the growing backlash against online inspiration.

[Grazia (UK celebrity magazine) 13 July 2015]

rando noun informal a random person, i.e. someone who is not known, not invited, etc.

This feature also makes it easier than ever to share that group photo you got some rando to take.

[ 27 August 2015]

About new words

New words – 14 December 2015


haskap (berry) noun a blue honeysuckle berry

A Nova Scotia farm operator says its Haskap berries are the next big thing in superfood, and the company is now looking to sell chunks of its farmland to investors from around the world.

[ 08 July 2015]


intermittent fasting noun eating nothing on some days and as normal on others, especially as an aid to weight loss

Feast for five days, fast for two. Eat whatever you want and lose weight. Stay healthier, live longer. These are the kinds of claims being made for intermittent fasting – and the idea that you can eat with abandon, so long as you restrict food consumption for two or three days a week, is seductive.

[ 14 July 2015]

rice’n’three noun a meal consisting of rice with three types of curry

When we do manage it [meeting for lunch], we love eating at a ‘rice’n’three’ place.

[The Guardian (UK broadsheet) 04 July 20155]

About new words

The People’s Words of 2015

by Alastair Horne​​​​​
austerityHere at Cambridge, we’ve been busy looking at actual searches in our online dictionaries to find the people’s Words of the Year. We’re committed to reflecting real-world corpus evidence in our dictionary entries. That’s why we’ve been looking for the words that have been searched for far more than expected – words whose searches have ‘spiked’.

So, which words spiked most often – and most sharply – in 2015? Which words did our dictionary users around the world search for far more than expected? And which of these words have we chosen as the People’s Word of the Year?

As we looked through the data for 2015, it became clear that there could only be one possible option. No other word was searched for as often, and as regularly, as this one. On five separate occasions this year, one word topped our weekly list of searched-for words; for the year as a whole, one word was way out in front for searches. And that word was ‘austerity’.

See what other words made the People’s Words of 2015

Seven years on from the global crash that did so much damage to the world economy, ‘austerity’ is still the word our dictionary users keep searching for. With elections across Europe all focusing on tough economic decisions, searches for ‘austerity’ saw a small initial spike in January, during the Greek elections, before much larger peaks in May, June, and July during and after the elections in Britain. A further, smaller, spike came in September, around the time of the Portuguese elections, and searches remained higher than usual for the rest of the year.


Austerity wasn’t the only instance of politics influencing the words that people searched for. When British Prime Minister David Cameron controversially referred to migrants in Calais, France as a ‘swarm,’ his choice of vocabulary attracted not only criticism from refugee groups, but also a great many searches for the word on Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

Similarly, when searches for ‘horse-trading’ peaked in March, the cause was another election, this time in India, when one party accused another of ‘horse-trading’ – making agreements to benefit both sides – after a vote had failed to deliver any party a majority.

All of our words of the year have stories behind them, and one of the most unexpected spikes of 2015 was also a little embarrassing. When a coding error on Cambridge Dictionaries Online mistakenly mixed up the audio recording of the word ‘Pennsylvania’ with the definition for ‘Parmesan’, we suddenly found ourselves going viral, as sites like Reddit and Buzzfeed attracted the attention of Pennsylvanian residents and Italian cheese lovers alike. We swiftly fixed the error, and searches for ‘Parmesan’ are now back to normal levels after their brief moment in the spotlight.

Sport and popular culture also continue to be a major influence on searches. When Brazilian footballer Neymar was accused of ‘showboating’ in the final of the Spanish Copa del Rey in May, annoying opponents by showing off his skills, football fans turned to Cambridge Dictionaries Online to learn the meaning of that term. And searches for ‘compos mentis’ surged earlier in the year when Madonna reassured fans around the world that she had received the all-clear from medical staff following her embarrassing and painful tumble at a music awards ceremony.

So, what do we learn from this? We’ve learned once more that you’re inquisitive types, you users of Cambridge Dictionaries Online – you’ve got a keen desire to understand the world about you, and to improve your English while you’re doing so. And we’ll be happy to be here for you again in 2016. We wish you all the best over the holiday period, and if you’d like to find out more about the words of this particular season, we’ve got a special treat for you here.

New words – 7 December 2015


flyboarding noun the sport of moving many metres up in the air over a stretch of water, while standing on a board. The board (a ‘Flyboard’) is powered by water spurting from a Jet Ski (trademark) down a tube to which it is attached

Hovering about 20 feet in the air propelled by a heavy stream of water, FlyBoarding gives the sensation of flying with a pair of jet boots.

[ 06 July 2015]

HAB noun informal the husband or boyfriend of a famous sportswoman

The Daily Mail has given a rundown of the most Waggish Habs. But ‘Habs’ doesn’t cut it. Some players have wives or girlfriends.

[ 01 July 2015]

flexing noun a style of dancing, originally from Brooklyn, New York, that involves extreme body contortions and disjointed movements

Flexing: the ‘bone-breaking’ dance craze that bubbled up from Brooklyn

[ 06 July 2015]

About new words

New words – 30 November 2015

conversational user interface

conversational user interface noun a computer interface that provides information to users in normal, conversational speech in response to spoken requests

Nearly every major tech company—from Amazon to Intel to Microsoft to Google—is chasing the sort of conversational user interface that Kaplan and his colleagues at PARC imagined decades ago.

[ 16 September 2015]

ambient computing noun a computing environment that is always available and easy to access by, for example, voice commands

The new Siri is paving the way to what you might call ‘ambient computing’ — a future in which robotic assistants are always on hand to answer questions, take notes, take orders or otherwise function as auxiliary brains to whom you might offload many of your chores.

[ 22 September 2015]

ubiquitous computing noun another phrase for ambient computing

Google, along with other companies and researchers, dreams of so-called ubiquitous computing or ambient intelligence — computers woven into the texture of life as opposed to being separate machines.

[ 27 September 2012]

About new words

New words – 23 November 2015


climatarian adjective choosing to eat a diet that has minimal impact on the climate, i.e. one that excludes food transported a long way or meat whose production gives rise to CO2 emissions

Climate change is not normally on people’s minds when they choose what to have for lunch, but a new diet is calling for people to go ‘Climatarian’ for their health and for the planet.

[ 16 July 2015]

There are some signs the public is starting to take such advice on board. They include the release of an ‘EatBy’ app that reminds consumers to use up food in the fridge, and a new social network to help people adopt a ‘climatarian’ diet that shuns meat from gassy grazing animals, such as beef and lamb.

[ 11 September 2015]

agtech noun the harnessing of new technologies for agricultural purposes, often specifically to increase food production in a sustainable way

The Next Food Frontier: How AgTech Can Save The World

[ 07 September 2015]

What the agtech boom means for Big Food

[ 30 September 2015]

shade ball noun a plastic ball for putting on the water in order to reduce evaporation and algae levels

Within hours, videos of the shade balls were everywhere. Social media went crazy for the name. The hashtag #shadeballs took off, with one Twitter user writing, ‘If you ever doubted that LA was the home to everything plastic… #shadeballs.’

[ 23 August 2015]

About new words

New words – 16 November 2015


yuccie noun young urban creative; someone who wants to be creative and free-spirited but also wealthy

Yuccies – cherish ‘craft’ beer and ‘artisanal’ food, like ‘authentic’ holiday destinations – are hipster versions of yuppies: they want personal success and financial gain while keeping their ‘creative autonomy’.

[ 19 July 2015]


open streets plural noun a plan in urban areas in which certain streets are closed to motor vehicles for a period of time to allow residents to use those streets for walking, bicycle riding, skating, etc.

Open-streets initiatives have taken root in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Portland, Ore., and more that 100 other US cities.

[AARP Bulletin (US magazine) Sept. 2015]

skunk water noun a foul, faecal-smelling liquid that is sprayed on protesters in some parts of the world in order to disperse them

Invented by Israeli firm Odortec, skunk water was first used by the Israeli military against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank in 2008.

[ 12 September 2015]

About new words

New words – 9 November 2015

nerd power

nerd power noun informal heat generated by computers and used, for example to heat places

All computers produce heat, but computer servers produce a lot of heat – so much that it usually costs a fortune to cool them down. So why isn’t this heat used instead to keep homes or offices warm? Actually, ‘nerd power’ is already being tried out.

[ 21 May 2015]

super cookie noun a cookie that is intended to be stored on a computer and cannot be deleted in the usual way

The program was dubbed a ‘super cookie’ because it is more powerful than a regular Web tracking cookie that users can delete. [ 01 April 2015]

smart desk noun a computerized desk that can be raised for use while standing and can monitor such things as the user’s movements, time spent at the desk sitting or standing, and calories burnt, and prompt the user to move about or stand up, etc.

The reason to buy a smart desk is because you, like most Americans, discover you are sitting your life away.
[/ (tech blog) 02 June 2015]

About new words

New words – 2 November 2015


she shed noun informal a garden shed owned by and equipped for a woman

Is this the ultimate sanctuary? Rise of the SHE shed as more women demand an oasis of calm at the bottom of the garden away from the chaos of family life

[ 20 April 2015]


non-binary adjective denoting a gender identity that does not conform to the generally accepted binary of male or female

Miley’s #InstaPride campaign supports non-binary gender

[ 16 May 2015]

sugar adjective denoting liaisons between older, moneyed men and younger women in which money changes hands. The liaisons are often arranged online.

Rachel, 21, knows the dangers. A timid language student at another top university, she joined a sugar website while she was still at school after hearing her parents arguing about money.

[ 17 June 2015]

Sugar dating websites are not supposed to be a conduit for selling sex – that would put them in a tricky legal area. But only the naive could get the wrong end of the stick.

[ 17 June 2015]

About new words