10 Words You Didn’t Know Were in the Dictionary

Merriam Webster, may she rest in peace, can tell us better than anyone that if you can feel it, see it, smell it, hear it, or even just sense it, there’s probably a word for it. There are over a million words in the English language, a number that’s so large yet thrown around so frequently that it’s not always that easy to actually grasp just how many words that is. According to some tests that have been run throughout the years, the average native English speaker knows from 20,000 to 35,000 words. That’s somewhere around 2% of all of the words that Merriam Webster has in her book of knowledge, leaving us with something like 980,000 words to go. We’re really not even making a dent.

While it seems impossible to learn and commit to memory those other 980,000 words, we can’t necessarily say for sure whether it is or not. But what we can say is that there are a lot of words out there that you probably didn’t know were officially in the English language dictionary. Look up pendejo meaning, for an example of one you’ve never heard before, or “kerfuffle” for one you have heard but didn’t know made the cut as an official word. You’d be surprised what you might find flipping through the pages of Merriam Webster’s book. But if you don’t have a dictionary handy, don’t sweat it. Here are some of our favorite words that you probably didn’t know made the cut. Try them out and shock your friends. 

1) Coke-head

This is probably one you’ve heard before, maybe even one you’ve used before, but did you know it’s actually in the dictionary? That’s right, this fairly insulting slang word for someone who uses a bit too much cocaine (though isn’t any cocaine technically too much cocaine?) is actually inscribed into our English language dictionary. It pretty much speaks for itself, so we don’t need to get too deep into the definition, but it’s always fun to surprise people with the fun fact that the condition of being a coke-head is actually a real thing. 

2) Pendejo

We mentioned it above, but if you look up pendejo meaning, you might get a bit of a chuckle out of it. Pendejo is a great way to insult someone for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s creative, and for two, the receiver of the insult won’t even know what you’re saying unless they go look up pendejo meaning for themselves. 

Pendejo is a Spanish insult, used as slang for “idiot” or “asshole,” but the literal meaning (in my opinion) is even better: pubic hair. So if someone’s really getting to you, call them a pendejo. If they look it up later, any of those three definitions they might find will probably get your point across. 

3) Yowza

Seriously, did you know this is a real word? The amount of times I’ve said this word myself or heard this word from others without knowing that it’s actually in the dictionary, Merriam Webster-approved, is comical. The fun thing about “yowza” is that it doesn’t have a strict definition, though it’s in the book. It’s still loosely defined as a word used to express, well, a range of emotions. From approval to enthusiasm and even empathy (ever expressed bad news and someone responded with “yowza”?), this word says it all. It might just be the only word you need, now that you know it’s official. 

4) Hangry

It’s only right that “hangry” made it into the official book of words. You probably know what this one means, but it made the dictionary, so now you know that it’s truly part of the English language since 2015. If you don’t know, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a combination of hungry and angry, resulting in that special kind of bad mood you enter when you really need to go eat a meal. Use it, teach it to your peers, and tell your kids it might pop up on the SAT someday. 

5) TL;DR

Yes, this isn’t even a word, but it’s in the dictionary, and I’m grateful it is because it’s not immediately obvious what this acronym means. I got used to seeing this all over the internet, scratching my head at it and stubbornly trying to figure it out using context clues until one day I finally caved and looked it up. It means “too long; didn’t read,” and it can be used as a snarky response to something that’s too long, or to preface a very brief summary of that too-long text. Whether you use it or not, at least you now know what it means. 

6) Dysania

This is one you may not have heard or seen before, but I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced it. Dysania is defined as “a psychological inability to get out of bed,” or, as I view it, the condition I come down with every morning. Next time you want to call out sick from work, tell your boss you’ve been diagnosed with dysania and you have no choice but to spend the day recovering. Who knows, maybe they’ll look it up and realize they have dysania, too. 

7) Putz

If anyone in your life likes to throw around the occasional Yiddish word or phrase, then you’ve probably heard “putz” before. But did you know it’s both a noun and a verb? The dictionary says it all. Personally, I’ve only used putz as a word to describe what I’m doing when I’m killing time or procrastinating, but now I know it has a more negative connotation than I’d ever thought, and that it’s also an insult when used as a noun. In its noun form, a putz is either someone who’s considered to be stupid, or it’s a vulgar slang word for a certain part of male genitalia. Personally, I believe it’s always good to have a few unique insults in your back pocket. Now you can add putz to the list. 

8) Meme

This one is for all those out there who have tried to explain what a meme is to someone who’s really just not getting it. Maybe it’s a parent, maybe it’s a grandparent, or maybe it’s a friend who’s just not “online,” but too many of us have attempted to find the words to describe what exactly this new form of internet communication/entertainment is and come up short. Well, you’re in luck. Meme is now a word in the dictionary with an official definition. So next time you’re attempting to explain what a meme is (and how it’s pronounced), you can just flip open the good ol’ Merriam Webster, and she’ll be able to say what you simply could not. 

9) Skedaddle

You’ve probably said this word before, and if you haven’t, then your dad probably has said it on a family vacation or something while being a typical dad. If you’re unfamiliar, to skedaddle is to depart quickly, but most people just use it as a word for “leave” or “depart.” Someone might say “I think it’s time to skedaddle” as you’re finishing up at a restaurant, for example. It doesn’t always need to be taken as its literal dictionary definition (meaning don’t dine and dash if someone suggests it in the restaurant setting), but at least now you know it has a literal dictionary definition. 

10) Smellfungus

Saving the best for last here. A smellfungus is not what it sounds like. It has nothing to do with scents or aromas or mushrooms at all. Rather, it’s a noun and can be used to refer to a person who always manages to find a fault in everything, a complainer. It’s said to have come from the name of a hypercritical character in “A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy,” a satirical version of Tobias Smollett. But you don’t even need to know that much. All you need to know is next time you’re enjoying something and the person you’re with complains, you can call them a smellfungus. 

 

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