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LOL spelled out with string Online expressions like LOL were added to the Oxford English Dictionary last week. (istockphoto.com)

LOL! FYI in the Dictionary

Texting expressions like LOL and FYI have been added to one of the English language’s most respected dictionaries

By Zach Jones | March 31 , 2011
<p>♥ was the first graphic symbol defined in the Oxford English Dictionary. (Milton Glaser)</p>

♥ was the first graphic symbol defined in the Oxford English Dictionary. (Milton Glaser)

Did you know that the first documented use of OMG was in 1917, or that LOL was once a common acronym meaning little old ladies in 1960?

That’s what the world learned when OMG, LOL, and FYI were added to the Oxford English Dictionary last week. This dictionary is considered by many to be the reference book that defines the English language.

Words added to the Oxford English Dictionary are truly considered new members of the language. People invent new words all the time, but only a few become popular enough to get defined in dictionaries.

Typed online or in text messages, LOL, FYI, and OMG are initialisms—words made from the first letters of several words in a phrase, which can be said aloud letter by letter, like LOL, which now stands for Laugh Out Loud.

Faster to type than the full phrases, initialisms like these have been used online since the 1990s. But these three online terms are now spoken outside the Internet too, making them different from other online lingo. Dictionary editors decided the words are used so commonly that they had to be defined this year.

The Oxford English Dictionary now defines more than 600,000 words. That adds up to more than 21,730 pages!

Guinness World Records calls it the longest dictionary in the world. The Oxford English Dictionary is known for recording words of all kinds—popular, outdated, and even foreign words used by English speakers, like taco—throughout the language’s long history.

Another important addition to the dictionary this year was ♥, as in “I ♥ NY.” This is the first graphic symbol ever defined in the Oxford English Dictionary. The editors added ♥ as a verb under the definition of “heart,” meaning “to love.”

Some slang words—informal language used more commonly in speech than in writing—were also added, like wassup, a shortened way to say “What’s up?” Even words that have been in use for many years like biker and happy camper were finally added to the dictionary.

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