In 2001, the word "d'oh" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary after years and years of being Homer Simpson's catchphrase on the American TV show The Simpsons.

Are there any other words that were popularized by a television show or movie enough to be officially included in the English language? I am not aware of any, but surely there must be a few others.

  • First thing that comes to mind is “yaba-daba-doo”, though I doubt if it appears in any dictionary (except the Urban one, of course). Also tangentially related (and wholly unfounded—I read it in an article once, but I don’t recall where), Beverly Hills 90210 spiked a temporary increase in girls named Andrea pronouncing their name as /ɑːndrɪə/ instead of /ændrɪə/. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '13 at 14:02
  • This is a short, interesting article relating to the topic: people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/tv-and-culture/… – tkendrick20 Jul 24 '13 at 14:39

One such is cowabunga, which appears in ODO.

exclamation, informal
used to express delight or satisfaction.

1950s: first popularized by a character on the US television programme Howdy Doody (1947–60). It later became associated with surfing culture and was further popularized by use on the US television cartoon programme Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987–96)

Others include [courtesy of OED]...

  • bippy Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (US, 1968–72)
  • craic SBB ina Shuí (Ireland, 1976–83)
  • dibble Top Cat (US, 1960–61; UK from 1962)
  • doomwatch Doomwatch (UK, 1970)
  • jobsworth That's Life (UK, 1973–94)
  • scooby [rhyming slang for clue] Scooby Doo (US/UK, 1960s)
  • spam [as in all-smothering multiple copies] Monty Python's Flying Circus (UK, 1971)
  • Tardis Doctor Who (UK, 1963–present)
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  • +1. I always thought this one originated with the Turtles, never knew they were just using an existing phrase! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '13 at 13:55
  • Awesome, I watched TMNT all the time as a kid. Interesting that the word originated from a show my parents grew up watching. – tkendrick20 Jul 24 '13 at 13:58
  • Craic, at least, was already a word in normal (if dialectal) use before Seán Bán popularised it. The word didn’t originate with SBB ina Shuí, though it did lead to national use. I do wonder how he came to use it in his catchphrase, though—he is certainly no Ulsterman … – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '13 at 14:39
  • One thing to note is that craic is no longer restricted to Irish speakers. It was the TV show that exposed it to a wider audience which led ultimately to spread to (eg) England. – Andrew Leach Jul 24 '13 at 14:50
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    @tkendrick20 "spam" the tinned processed pork variety, not today's spam mail! But it was Python's obsessive and hypnotic chant in that sketch which eventually lead to renaming unsolicited junk mail as such. – Mari-Lou A Jul 24 '13 at 15:58

Seinfeld's classic yada yada made it into the OED in 2006.

From Merriam-Webster (since I don't have the OED with me now):

Yada yada: boring or empty talk. Often used interjectionally especially in recounting words regarded as too dull or predictable to be worth repeating. "listening to a lot of yada yada about the economy"

And on a different note, there's jumping the shark from Happy Days, although that's a bit of a meta-example.

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  • That's a good one! My dad says this all the time. He must talk to a lot of boring people. – tkendrick20 Jul 24 '13 at 14:35
  • +1 for Jumping the Shark which became synonymous for a tanking TV show to pull some spectacular stunt to boost ratings and regain viewers. The X-Files named an episode "Jump the Shark" in its 9th (and last) season. – Kristina Lopez Jul 24 '13 at 14:44
  • Yada yada yada was around for a long time before Seinfeld ... it just wasn't common, and was ethnically/regionally limited. Here is an example from 1981. – Peter Shor Jul 26 '13 at 10:53
  • @PeterShor Nice find! Seinfeld must've put it in the spotlight. The spelling is a bit different too; I prefer the extra d. – user22138 Jul 26 '13 at 11:32
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    I expect that before Seinfeld, it was predominantly spoken, and so there wasn't any standard spelling. – Peter Shor Jul 26 '13 at 11:35

Your question is a bit confusing. You ask for words "inspired by a television show or movie" but the example you give (doh) was popularized by The Simpsons, not inspired by it. The OED's first citation for doh is:

1945   T. Kavanagh It's That Man Again (B.B.C. radio script) 8th Ser. No. 166,   Tom: Yes, out of the nest–Diana: What nest? Tom: In those whiskers–Diana: Dooh! Its [sic] no good talking to you.

So perhaps you could clarify the question?

Anyway, here are a few examples of words inspired by movies, from the OED:

Rosebud, n. Something likened to the ‘Rosebud’ of Citizen Kane in being an enigmatic clue which provides revelatory insight into a person's character.

Star Wars n. the title of a popular science-fiction film released in 1977, used (chiefly attrib.) as the informal name for a military defence strategy proposed by U.S. President Reagan in 1983, in which enemy weapons would be destroyed in space by lasers, antiballistic missiles, etc., launched or directed from orbiting military satellites.

Strangelove, n. Used transf. to designate one who ruthlessly considers or plans nuclear warfare.

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  • The popularization of the word inspired its consideration for inclusion in the OED. I guess when I used "word" in the question, I meant "officially recognized Enlish word." – tkendrick20 Jul 25 '13 at 12:45
  • @tkendrick20: Could you could edit your question and title to make it clear that you are looking for words popularized by television and movies? – Gareth Rees Jul 25 '13 at 13:09
  • Is that better? – tkendrick20 Jul 25 '13 at 14:03
  • Yes, that's better, though I would write "included in dictionaries" rather than "officially included in the English language". There's no official body that gets to say which words are in the language and which are not! – Gareth Rees Jul 25 '13 at 14:27


1. a time machine.
2. a building or container that is larger inside than it appears to be from outside.

the name (said to be an acronym of time and relative dimensions in space) of a time machine which had the exterior of a police telephone box in the British TV science-fiction series Doctor Who, first broadcast in 1963.

[Quoted from ODO]

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  • Nice, I never knew that was an actual word! – tkendrick20 Jul 24 '13 at 14:11


This was done by Will Smith in "Fresh Prince of Bel Air."

jig·gy [jig-ee] Show IPA adjective, jig·gi·er, jig·gi·est. Slang. 1. nervous; active; excitedly energetic. 2. wonderful and exciting, especially because stylish. Origin: 1930–35, Americanism; origin uncertain, perhaps jig2 or jig(gle) + -y2

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I only know this because I've received several explanations for the origin of this word. Apparently it was first heard and used in the British TV series, Only Fools and Horses (in 1981).

Unashamedly copied and pasted from here:

  • Writer John Sullivan used a number of sound-alike words to substitute for non-permissible rude ones and 'plonker' was one of these.
  • Plonker itself has a few meanings, including "something large and substantial of its kind", "penis" and "a foolish, inept, or contemptible person".

From Wikipedia

Only Fools and Horses – and consequently John Sullivan – is credited with the popularisation in Britain of several words and phrases used by Del Boy regularly, particularly "Plonker", meaning a fool or an idiot, and two expressions of delight or approval: "Cushty" and "Lovely jubbly". The latter was borrowed from [...] an obscure 1960s orange juice drink, called Jubbly, [...] Sullivan remembered it and thought it was an expression Del Boy would use; in 2003, the phrase was incorporated into the new Oxford English Dictionary. Other British slang words commonly used and popularised in the series include "dipstick", "wally" and "twonk", all mild ways of calling someone an idiot.


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