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Time Traveler

27 October 2019

Merriam Webster (no, not the name of a 19th-century philosopher or suffragette, the dictionary company) has a new feature it calls Time Traveler.

Time Traveler lets you see a word was first used in print.

At most entries in the Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, a date will be found following the heading “First Known Use”. This is the date of the earliest recorded use in English, as far as it could be determined, of the oldest sense defined in the entry.

It is essential to keep a few factors in mind when assessing the First Known Use Date:

  1. The date may not represent the very oldest sense of the word. Many obsolete, archaic, and uncommon senses have been excluded from this dictionary, and such senses have not been taken into consideration in determining the date.
  2. The date most often does not mark the very first time that the word was used in English. Many words were in spoken use for decades or even longer before they passed into the written language. The date is for the earliest written or printed use that the editors have been able to discover.
  3. The date is subject to change. Many of the dates provided will undoubtedly be updated as evidence of still earlier use emerges.

Link to the rest at Merriam-Webster Time Traveler and Dates in the Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary

So, for example, extreme risk law was first used in 2017 as:

RED FLAG LAW Gun advocates often balk at extreme risk laws for fear that such laws violate due process, though people who are threatened with the removal of their guns can appeal to the courts.— Susan Campbell

and such words/terms as automatic teller machine, chump change and recreational drug appeared on the scene in 1967.

Non-Fiction

3 Comments to “Time Traveler”

  1. So, they’re doing what the Oxford English Dictionary has done from the beginning. Better late than never, I suppose.

  2. They’d better do a better job of confirming their “first use in print” examples than they’ve done. For example, out of the three examples PG cites at the end, one of them was first used in print nearly a decade earlier in 1959.

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