‘Plant-based’ and ‘oat milk’ are added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  24th September 2022

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'The dictionary chronicles how the language grows and changes, which means new words and definitions must continually be added', proving it's a move that reflects veganism's cultural significance


A major US dictionary has announced the 370 news words it added for September – and they include ‘plant-based‘ and ‘oat milk’.

Merriam-Webster, which has been gatekeeping language for some 194 years and adds new words every few months, also added the term ‘greenwashing‘ to its digital pages.

In order to find words to add to the dictionary, its editors keep an eye on social media, as well as more traditional media outlets including websites and national newspapers.

A word will be considered if it is widely used, and its meaning is agreed upon by people using it.

As a result, words that are added to dictionaries are often considered to reflect the cultural zeitgeist and general conversation.

Merriam-Webster’s inclusion of vegan and environmental-centric terms therefore suggests their growing cultural significance.

Dictionary definitions

According to Merriam-Webster, plant-based means: “made or derived from plants 2 : consisting primarily or entirely of food (such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, oils, and beans) derived from plants.”

Meanwhile, oat milk is defined as: “a liquid made from ground oats and water that is usually fortified (as with calcium and vitamins) and used as a milk substitute.”

Its definition of greenwashing is: “1 : to make (something, such as a product, policy, or practice) appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is.

2 : to mislead (someone) by means of greenwashing greenwash noun : something (such as a claim or action) that is intended to make a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is.”

Inclusion criteria

According to Merriam-Webster, a word has to meet several criteria for inclusion in the dictionary.

It says: “A word gets into a dictionary when it is used by many people who all agree that it means the same thing. 

“If your toddler nephew invented a great word that the English language simply can’t do without, don’t write to us to recommend that it be added to the dictionary. Use it. 

“First, you drop the word into your conversation and writing, then others pick it up; the more its use spreads, the more likely it will be noticed by dictionary editors, or lexicographers. 

“If your nephew’s word is one that English speakers decide we need, it has a good chance of getting into the dictionary.”

Some other words added this month include hoglet (denoting a baby hedgehog), sidehustle, and metaverse.

While Merriam-Webster may have only just recognised oat milk officially, the delicious drink has been around for a while. But how does it compare to other plant-based dairy alternatives? Check out our guide to how to choose the best vegan milk to use in different recipes

Featured image: ©Tasty food and photography via Getty Images

Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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