The top 10 foreign words that are now in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The global conversation changes language and tastes.
The global conversation changes language and tastes.
Image: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom
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If you’re hip to linguistics, you already know English is full of foreign words. For example, “hip” is from the 1920s slang “hepcat,” derived from the West African language Wolof, and its word for “one in the know,” a hipikat.

To be in the know now—a postmodern hepcat, if you will—add 10 more foreign words to your lexicon. Merriam-Webster Dictionary editors devote two hours daily to finding words of interest, monitoring rising usage until finally choosing the foreign words popular enough to be included in the dictionary. These 10 words were all added in recent months. Quartz got ahold of them first.

The dictionary teamed up with the language-learning platform Babbel to explain the origins of these words, which will be integrated into English lessons this year to keep courses fresh and relevant. The new additions come from French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Nahautl, Spanish, Tagalog, and Thai.

“The one constant of a vibrant living language is change, and English has never been more alive than in this age of fast communication, frequent travel, and curiosity about our world,” says Merriam-Webster editor Peter Sokolowski. “As we encounter other cultures, we encounter other ways of describing the world around us—and the dictionary records these changes to our language.”

Editors’ picks

Arancini  ä-rän-chē-nē  (n): Small balls of cooked rice with savory fillings,  coated with bread crumbs and deep-fried. In Italian arancini means “little orange” (orange is arancia) and the English word derives from the shape and color of the dumplings. First use: 1948. Recent usage: Oct. 2017 New York Times. “Snacky spuntini like arancini and prosciutto bomboloni have been added to a refined Italian menu.”

Bibimbap   bē-bēm-bäp (n): A rice dish with cooked vegetables, usually meat, and a raw or fried egg. From the Korean pibimpap, a mashup of pibim,  meaning “hash, chopped food” and pap, or “cooked rice.” First use: 1977. Recent usage: Aug. 2017  Bon Appetit. “At lunchtime, the stand serves bibimbap and rice cakes and bulgogi.” (Bonus word—bulgogi, Korean for “fire meat,” is shredded, marinated beef or pork, barbecued).

Bokeh ˈbō-kā,-kə  (n): The blurred effect in a photograph taken with a narrow depth of field. Derived from the Japanese word boke, meaning “blur,” which also refers to unclear thinking. First use: 2000. Recent usage: March 2017. Bokeh is the title of a science fiction movie from New Zealand about the last two people on Earth.

Calamondin ˌka-lə-män-dən (n): A small, ornamental hybrid citrus-kumquat tree cultivated in warm regions that yields small, tart, orange fruit with acidic juice used as a flavoring agent. In the original Tagalog, spoken in the Philippines, this tree is called the kalamundingFirst use: 1928. Recent usage: Jan. 2017 Tallahassee Democrat. “Originating from China, calamondin…was introduced to the US around 1900.”

Cascabel kas-kə-bel (n): A small, rounded, moderately pungent chili pepper, usually dried when its skin is a translucent, dark red and loose seeds are rattling in the pod. In Spanish, cascabel means “small bell,” an allusion to the sound of rattling seeds in the dried pods, and rattlesnakes are known as serpientes de cascabelFirst use: 1639. Recent usage: Nov. 2017 Seattle Times. “Piquant pickled vegetables and a vivid convergence of spicy-sweet cascabel salsa.”

Chia ˈchē-ə (n): An annual herb in the mint family, native to Mexico and Guatemala, with blue, purple, or white spiked flowers, grown for its grayish, mucilaginous seeds which are eaten whole or used to make a beverage or oil. The word comes from the Nahautl word chian, meaning “oily” and has its roots in the Mayan chiháan, or “strong.” First use: 1832. Recent usage: Jan. 2018 Bon Appetit coconut chia tapioca pudding recipe.

Froideur f(r)wä-ˈdər,-ˈdœr (n): Coolness or extreme reserve in manner. In French, froideur can refer to chilly temperatures and figurative coldness, an attitude, but in English it’s used only figuratively. First use: 1784. Recent usage: Sept. 2017 Conde Nast Traveler. “There’s no hint of formal froideur from the smiling young staffers, dressed in breezy contemporary uniforms.”

Santoku san-ˈtō-kü (n): A Japanese kitchen knife with a light blade, straight or slightly curved cutting edge, and curved spine. The knife is used for slicing, dicing, and mincing and its name originates in the Japanese phrase 三徳 which describes the three (san) virtues (toku) in Buddhism: valor, wisdom and benevolence. First use: 1993. Recent usage: Nov. 2017 Men’s Health. “So do something really nice for yourself and buy…one of those neat-looking Japanese Santoku blades.”

Schneid shnīd (n): A losing streak  in sports, from the term schneider in the card game gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring any points. In German, schneider is “tailor.” First use: 1969. Recent usage: Jan. 16, 2018 Marshalltown Times Republic story, titled “Off the Schneid: Bohannon, Hawkeyes rally from 20 down to beat Illinois in OT.”

Sriracha sə-ˈrä-chə,sē- (n): A pungent sauce of hot peppers pureed with garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar, typically used as a condiment. The popular hot sauce is named after the town of its origin Si Racha in the Chonburi Province of Thailand. First use: 1984. Recent usage: Jan. 16, 2018 Esquire article titled “Sriracha is for Closers.”