Posted on 2 May 2022

Five new words for May

It’s the start of May, so here’s your monthly helping of new words that may enter the Macquarie Dictionary! Up first is a new word from the internet that has already been circulating in the media: goblin mode, a pattern of behaviour characterised by an embrace of indolence and slovenliness. It is apparently epitomised by the cat in this video. We’re unsure why goblins have been made the face of what is quintessentially human behaviour, though… Next up is prebunking, the practice of addressing false information before it is published. You’d be right to guess that it’s a play on debunking, but did you know that the bunk in debunk is a shortening of bunkum? And that bunkum itself, meaning ‘insincere talk’, was coined after a member of the US House of Representatives made an infamously tedious and irrelevant speech in 1820 on behalf of his constituents in Buncombe County, North Carolina? It’s quite the derivation! Another contender is spillback. When COVID-19 jumped from animals to humans, it was an instance of spillover. But now that it’s been spreading far and wide in the community, we face the risk of spillback: humans infecting other species with the disease. You may have heard of huge spillback outbreaks of COVID-19 in mink farms overseas, for example. Let’s round things out with two new colloquialisms: graff, a shortening of graffiti, and swerve, a transitive verb meaning ‘to avoid or ignore’, as in ‘I think he’s swerving me’. Over to you – do you think any of these words should be in the Macquarie Dictionary?
Posted on 1 December 2021

Word for Word #43 Word of the Year 2021

In this, the final episode of season 6, we join the Word of the Year Committee to discuss which word was crowned the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year 2021, the selection process and other words from the short list. Join us as we explore our language: the ways we use it, the ways we abuse it, and the ways we ultimately change it.  You can also explore the 'additional links' below to discover what new words and definitions have been on our editor's minds in recent months.  Subscribe now on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon or your favourite podcast app to get the latest episode delivered direct to your inbox.   Words & Definitions
  • brain tickler
  • brick-bait
  • Delta
  • dignity suit
  • dry scooping
  • dump cake
  • front-stab
  • hate-follow
  • humane washing
  • last chance tourism
  • menty-b
  • NFT
  • porch pirate
  • range anxiety
  • shadow pandemic
  • sober curious
  • strollout
  • third place
  • wokescold
  Additional links Word of the Year 2021 Word of the Year 2021 Shortlist Suggest a Word Word for Word episode #29 Word of the Year 2019 Word for Word episode #37 Word of the Year 2020   Acknowledgements Word for Word is produced by Macmillan Audio Australia for Macquarie Dictionary and Pan Macmillan Australia.  Music used in this episode is by Broke For Free, available from the Free Music Archive and used by permission of the artist. Find more music by Broke for Free including The Gold Lining; and If. Our logo is by Amy Sherington. All sound effects and clips are public domain, royalty-free, or used by permission. If you like Word for Word, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts! It only takes a minute and it helps other people discover the show.  
Posted on 21 September 2021

A ruby-dazzler of an anniversary

Forty years ago, on 21 September 1981, the first edition of Australia’s national dictionary, the Macquarie Dictionary, was launched. A green and gold cocktail was invented for the occasion (see recipe below), the room was festooned with wattle, and eminent historian, Manning Clark, carried out the launching honours. The vice-chancellor of Macquarie University, Professor Edwin Webb (below left), made a short speech before asthmatically fleeing into the night, away from the wattle, to which he was highly allergic.    Copies of the new dictionary were pored over, favourite Australianisms were looked up, cries of 'It’s in!' were heard throughout the evening. After all, this was a fully descriptive dictionary, containing the gamut of Australian English. The publishing director, Dan O’Keefe, had gone through the pages just before the dictionary went to print, looking for running heads (those bold guide words at the top of each page) that could be offensive to more delicate readers. The usual suspects were checked. The page with cunt-struck (also discussed back in 2015 after an appearance on Four Corners) as a running head was adjusted slightly to bring the more innocuous headword cup back, and so become the running head. However, much to Dan’s chagrin, one of the discoveries of launch night was a running head in a usually innocuous part of the dictionary – what could possibly be offensive around mother? Mother-fucker – that’s what. The Macquarie Cocktail (Green and Gold)
  • Brut champagne
  • 1 tbsp mango juice
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Dash of Grand Marnier
  • Whole strawberry, leaves attached, floating (the ‘green’ aspect)
  • Mint (optional additional ‘green’ aspect)
In the intervening forty years, the Macquarie Dictionary has continued to describe our language, warts and all. The internet has made research both easier and more difficult – it’s now a very different ballpark to the days of circling words in a newspaper or novel, jotting down (on the back of a chequebook!) words heard in conversation, on the bus, on radio and TV, then waiting for more citations to come in until finally judging a word to be well-used enough to be included in the dictionary. There have been complaints about the inclusion of words referring to truly horrible racist, sexist, sleazy opinions and acts. As long as these are current in the community they will continue to be part of the dictionary, just as they are part of Australian English. Naturally, these words carry warnings in the form of labels and usage notes indicating their offensive nature. The Macquarie Dictionary in 1981 contained about 80,000 headwords. The Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition, published in 2020, had nearly 110,000. The Macquarie Dictionary online has more than 130,000 headwords. The language is constantly changing and Macquarie continues to keep a finger on its pulse.  You can keep in touch with us across social media, as well as in our podcast, Word for Word. And feel free to suggest words for the next edition by submitting them through our website.
Word of the Day
Posted on 21 May 2022


An ancient instrument of torture by which one or both thumbs were compressed.