As the internet continues to reshape how we live, new words are necessary to explain current predicaments and actions. But where do these words come from?
Some answers are easier than others. Take for example the word “subtweet.” It’s among the 850 words the Merriam-Webster dictionary added this week to its lexicographical tome. It is a portmanteau of the words “subliminal” and “tweet,” which basically sums up what the word means.
Another word joining the Merriam-Webster dictionary, however, started like so many other contemporary pop culture phenomenon—The Simpsons. In the Season 9 episode “Lisa the Iconoclast,” Lisa investigates the history of Springfield’s founding father, Jebediah Springfield, and discovers he was a murderous pirate that once clashed with George Washington.
At the beginning of the episode, we’re treated to a propaganda film explaining the city’s origins that includes the immortal phrase, “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.”
Now “embiggens” has officially entered the dictionary as a legitimate word. As a Simpsons nod, Merriam-Webster states that 1996 was its first known usage, which is the year “Lisa the Iconoclast” aired. Here is what the word’s definition looks like.
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Definition of embiggen
informal + humorous
: to make bigger or more expansive : enlarge, expand
- This incredible chart was the final product. (Click to embiggen.) —Erik Malinowski
- There are many painters who rely on computers as a tool or arbitrary gimmick, but the recent striated abstract paintings of Linda Day translate digital structures into painting language in a seamless way that embiggens both. —Doug Harvey
Can’t wait until the dictionary embiggens next year to see what words get added!