National News

Merriam-Webster redefines 'troll' and 'dog whistle' to conform to the times

Posted September 19

In the months since last November's election, the Merriam-Webster dictionary has been on overdrive.

It's transformed itself into a cheeky, fact-checking machine. And in the process, it's struck social gold (more than half a million Twitter followers and counting).

On Monday, the dictionary released more than 250 new words and definitions. True to its fresh image, the list includes several words that, in this new political and social climate, have taken on a different meaning.

Consider "troll."

Originally, it was a noun used to describe a dwarf or giant in Scandinavian folklore. The new definition that Merriam-Webster added is a verb: "to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content."

How about "dog whistle?"

Once upon a time, it was what it said: a whistle for dogs inaudible to humans. Now, it's earned a political twist: It's "an expression or statement that has a secondary meaning intended to be understood only by a particular group of people."

Other additions this go-round include "alt-right," "concealed carry" and "open carry."

"With politics seeming to be ever-prominent in the public's mind, terms like alt-right and dog whistle are not surprising additions," Merriam-Webster said in a statement on its website.

The dictionary usually releases its list of new words every few months. When the last list came out in February, the 1,000+ new words included "SCOTUS," "FLOTUS," and "truther."

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