Possible Duplicate:
Creating a new word

The rule of thumb used to be that when a word hit the Oxford Dictionary, it was considered to be an accepted word - this, however, seems to have transitioned into a lagging indicator in the last 5 years, primarily because so many new words are being created around the technological advances/services/products which seem to dominate our lives.

When does a word 'officially' become a word - usage, social impact, cultural acceptance, mass media propagation?


Despite what many people seem to think, there is no such thing as the English Language Police Force. :-)

No official body exists to decide whether or not a word is "officially" a word. A good rule of thumb would be "it's a word when you can use it without worrying whether or not your audience will understand you. It isn't hard and fast for all situations, but it works most of the time.


When is an embryo considered to be a baby? The creation and evolution of a word is determined by the frequency and context of those who use it. Dictionaries merely 'make it official.' They don't create words anymore than filling out the paperwork for purchasing a new car "creates" the car.


There is no answer, or several.

First of all your "officially" is meaningless: there is no authority who can make this determination.

It is clear that there is a continuum from a nonce-word (that somebody made up and used once) to an ordinary word that everybody acknowledges as such. But there are various lines to be drawn within that.

Once a "word" has been used several times in print, (and not just quoting each other) it is almost certainly a word. In earlier ages there were plenty of words (for example, profanity) which never or hardly ever got written, because they were not regarded as "proper", but no sensible description of the language today would exclude them as words).

What of a "word" which is in general use among some particular group (for example, an occupation, or a social clique): is it a word? Probably yes, but some might disagree.

BTW, the dictionaries, including the OED, tend to react somewhat faster than you're implying.