June 2009 update

On 11 June 2009 the alphabetical range rean-recyclist was added to the New Edition: every word in this range has been thoroughly revised and updated. Below are listed all the new words in the range. We have also added a further list of new words from across the alphabet. The OED‘s chief editor, John Simpson, provides some observations on the revision of this section of the alphabet, and Graeme Diamond comments on some of the most interesting new words in the batch.


This quarter’s revised and updated words from the OED cover the alphabetical range rean to recyclist, originally published under Sir William Craigie’s editorship one hundred and five years ago in 1904.

I’ve noted from time to time that the end-words of these ranges can often be quite obscure. As it happens, the final entries in the present range are perfectly familiar and deal with the topical issue of recycling. But the opening word, true to form, will be unfamiliar to most users: rean is a regional term for ‘a deep furrow used for conducting drainage water from a field or other piece of ground’. But as you can see from the definition, even reans appear to contribute to the recycling effort.

When Dr Craigie reviewed this and adjacent ranges in 1904 he was fairly subdued in his enthusiasm:

‘The very abstract sense of some of these words (as receive, recover) causes considerable difficulty of arrangement, which is sometimes increased by the large number of obsolete uses which have to be recorded, as in the case of redound, redress, reduce. Formations of the type readapt, readdress, readhere, etc., are numerous, but seldom of special interest.’

Sir William’s ‘prefatory notes’ for the range, along with the prefaces for other sections of the First Edition of the dictionary, have been available for some years as Dispatches from the Front (UW Centre for the New OED, 1987), edited by Dr Darrell Raymond, formerly of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Dr Raymond has kindly supplemented and reformatted his text for online access, and these prefaces are now available at the OED site.

It is possible to regard the re– words in this range as a rather repetitive set of terms. As we move out of rea– most of the borrowings are of Romance, rather than Germanic origin. But a brief summary shows that as well as the simple terms for which Craigie felt no great warmth, there is a wide range of everyday words we’re all familiar with:

reap, rear, reason, reasonable, rebel, rebellion, rebellious, rebuke, rebut, recalcitrant, recall, recant, recapitulation, recede, receipt, receive, receiver, recent, receptacle, reception, receptive, receptor, recess, recession, recessive, recharge, recidivist, recipe, recipient, reciprocal, reciprocate, recital, recitation, recite, reck, reckless, reckon, reclaim, recline, recluse, reclusive, recognition, recognizance, recognize, recoil, recollect, recollection, recommence, recommend, recompense, reconcile, recondite, reconnaissance, reconnoitre, reconsider, reconstitute, reconstruct, record, recorder, recording, recount, recoup, recourse, recover, recovery, recreant, recreate, recreation, recrimination, recruit, rectangle, rectangular, rectify, rectilinear, rectitude, recto, rector, rectory, recumbent, recuperate, recur, recurrent, recursion, recursive, recusant, recycle.

Buried deep in the preceding list is another word which has been in the news headlines recently: recession. This is a word which entered English from Latin in the seventeenth century. OED1 (in 1904) presented the word in a rather straightforward light. The earliest evidence for recession in a number of senses clustered around the 1650s. The definitions were given in a solid logical order, roughly:

  1. The action of receding (in literal contexts)
    1. from a place (a1652-)
    2. with reference to receding surfaces or outlines (1753-)
    3. in time (1646-)
    4. (Philology) the transference of accentuation to or towards the first syllable (1886-)
  2. Various transferred or figurative senses (1647-)
  3. The departure of something from the location at which it exists (1659-)
  4. A temporary economic decline (1929-)

A new look at the evidence for the word today offers a rather different view. In the early seventeenth century recession was beginning to take on some of the meanings of the older noun recess. In fact the first time we meet recession, in 1606, it means ‘a temporary suspension of work or activity’ (equivalent to sense 5 of recess, which was well attested in the language). This sense, however, does not show any longevity in English, and by the mid seventeenth century we are reverting to using recess here again.

At roughly the same time (around 1608) we find records of a new sense. In this case recession is mainly used in medical contexts, in the sense of ‘the relief or remission of a disease, etc.’, or ‘the decline of a function’. As Charles Bisset remarked in 1762, in his Essay on the Medical Constitution of Great Britain:

‘A long uniform course of warm or sultry weather..occasions a general recession of the inflammatory disposition.’

Soon afterwards (1614) the meaning of recession broadened to include any action (or act) of departing from a state, standard, or even mindset:

‘All this’ [said Dr Johnson] ‘is a..temporary recession from the realities of life to airy fictions.’

It is not until 1630 that we have a record of recession in the physical sense of receding or moving away, first from a point, and then (1646) with reference to time:

‘Has there really been a recession of the seasons, so that summer comes later every year?’ (Mortimer Collins)

Alongside these general senses, illustrating physical receding, we now start to find specialist meanings: in astronomy (where recession is used to mean ‘precession’: 1682-); in physical geography (the withdrawal of sea from a shoreline, etc.: 1746-); especially in dentistry and surgery (movement of part of the body away from its normal position: 1827-); in phonetics (movement of accentuation towards the front of a word: 1855-); in religion: a return procession (1868-); and again in astronomy (the motion of a celestial body away from the earth: 1871-).

A further branch of meaning becomes evident in the eighteenth century. In 1753 William Hogarth wrote that ‘planes or flat surfaces..have their appearances of recession perfected by the first species of retiring shades’. In so doing he was perhaps heralding in a new meaning for recession (‘the effect or fact of being recessed, especially in architectural design or artistic representation’). By 1799 a recession could also be a cavity or depression (as in a rock or coastline).

In general, recess itself had served for most of these meanings in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. We can see the inroads made by recession in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as the balance between recess and recession underwent a profound shift.

The most familiar meaning of recession is the economic one. The first glimmerings of this date from the mid nineteenth century, when the Guardian (1847) wrote “as is usual when a recession of price succeeds a series of advances, the amount of business done was under average”. This meaning (‘a reduction in value or amount’) flourished, but it is not equivalent to the modern sense ‘a period of economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced’. OED1/2 dated this use from 1929, when the Economist, on the eve of the Great Depression, worried about the prospect of having to face “an immediate recession of some magnitude”. For OED3 we have found the sense being used (in a regional American newspaper) in 1905, of the short, sharp recession of 1903, when (as we might recognize) “the bottom was knocked out of the speculative craze which had seized the country”.

John Simpson

Chief Editor, Oxford English Dictionary

New words

bailout n.2

Bailouts of banks and other institutions have been prominent in the news recently, but the word has a long history, dating back to 1939. Although a more general sense exists, meaning a rescue of any kind, from the very start the context was financial; our first quotation comes from an article in Time discussing arrangements for a payment of $40,000,000 earmarked to help the tobacco industry (perhaps less likely to be the recipient of a bailout today), after a bad crop. Although the derivation of the noun bailout is straightforward, from the phrasal verb to bail out (also included in this release), the metaphor underlying this is unclear; whether the idea is that money is provided to ‘get someone out of jail’, or that metaphorical water is being bailed out of a ‘sinking ship’. It is possible that two originally distinct idioms have merged to create this sense.

car-booter n.

Although arguably a perfectly transparent compound (at least to a British person), this is a nice demonstration of the ways in which a logically formed word can appear baffling to someone who does not share the cultural background from which it comes. A person who kicks cars? Or (at a stretch) starts them, as one would boot a computer? Without prior knowledge of the existence of car-boot sales (and indeed that the rear storage compartment on a British car is a ‘boot’ not a ‘trunk’), one might not guess that this is simply a word for a person who attends them.

rechallenge v. and rechallenge n.

The latest release of material for OED Online, running from rean to recyclist, predictably contains many formations utilizing the prefix re-. In some ways these are typical examples, re- prefixing to a verb or noun to indicate repetition of the action or fact of challenging. What’s interesting here is that unlike many such formations, which, after they are first used, tend to retain currency unless the root verb or noun falls out of use, the rechallenge words have enjoyed two discrete flurries of usage with nothing in between; in the early 18th century, and then from the mid 20th century onwards. Quite what made speakers so unlikely to say “rechallenge” in the intervening 200-plus years is unclear. Usage in the 20th century has been bolstered by the appearance of a specific Immunology sense.

turducken n.

A coming together of three words and of three birds. As a blend of the nouns duck and chicken are affixed to the first part of the word turkey, so a boned chicken is used to stuff a boned duck, which is in turn used to stuff a partially boned turkey. The result, in both cases, might equally be regarded as inventive, elegant, and appetizing, or as an ungainly way of overdoing things somewhat.
Graeme Diamond, Principal Editor, New Words, Oxford English Dictionary

List of new words

  • reappropriation, n.
  • reapprove, v.
  • rearfoot, n.
  • reasonally, adv.
  • reassay, n.
  • reassociated, adj.
  • reassortant, adj. and n.
  • reassorted, adj.
  • reauthorization, n.
  • rebalance, n.
  • rebalance, v.
  • rebalancing, n.
  • rebartering, n.
  • rebirthing, n.
  • reboot, v.
  • rebrand, n.
  • rebreather, n.
  • rebuffing, n.1
  • rebuffing, n.2
  • recanvas, v.
  • recanvass, n.
  • recap, n.3
  • recaptive, n. and adj.
  • recarbonize, v.
  • recarburizing, adj.
  • recatholization, n.
  • receptaculum, n.
  • receptoral, adj.
  • recessivity, n.
  • rechallenge, n.
  • rechallenge, v.
  • rechannel, v.
  • rechannelling | rechanneling, n.
  • re-chip, v.
  • Recioto, n.
  • reclass, v.
  • recock, v.1
  • recognitional, adj.
  • recollapse, v.
  • recollecting, adj.
  • recomember, v.
  • recommencing, n.
  • recommendary, adj.
  • recompensate, v.
  • recompilation, n.
  • recompile, n.
  • reconditioner, n.
  • reconfess, v.
  • reconfigurable, adj.
  • reconnection, n.
  • reconquista, n.
  • Reconstructionism, n.
  • recontent, v.
  • recontextualize, v.
  • recontour, v.
  • recordant, n.
  • recordari, n.
  • recordress, n.
  • reco-reco, n.
  • recouper, n.1
  • recreatory, adj.
  • recrew, v.2
  • recruitee, n.
  • recruitship, n.
  • recrystallizing, n.
  • rectangulated, adj.
  • rectus abdominis, n.
  • rectus femoris, n.
  • recursivity, n.

In addition to these new entries, a number of new subordinate entries were added to existing entries. These included:

  • (Under Réaumur, n. and adj.)
    • Réaumur’s thermometer
  • (Under reap, n.2)
    • reap day
  • (Under rear admiral, n.)
    • Rear Admiral of the United Kingdom
    • Rear Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
  • (Under rear, adj.2 and n.2)
    • rear commodore
    • rearsight
    • rear-wheel drive
    • rear yard
  • (Under rearfoot, n.)
    • rearfoot striker
  • (Under rearing, n.)
    • rearing vat
  • (Under reasonable, adj., n., and adv.)
    • reasonable cause
    • reasonable doubt
    • beyond reasonable doubt
    • reasonable force
    • reasonable suspicion
  • (Under re-book, v.)
    • rebooking
  • (Under rebore, v.)
    • reboring
  • (Under rebound, n. (and adj.))
    • rebound tenderness
  • (Under rebreed, v.)
    • rebreeding
  • (Under recanalize, v.)
    • recanalized
  • (Under recapitulate, v.)
    • recapitulated
  • (Under recarbonize, v.)
    • recarbonization
  • (Under receipt, n.)
    • receipt box
    • receipt man
  • (Under receiving, adj.)
    • receiving water
  • (Under receiving, n.)
    • receiving place
  • (Under receptive, adj.)
    • receptive field
    • receptive language
  • (Under receptor, n.)
    • receptor-destroying enzyme
  • (Under recession, n.1)
    • recession buster
    • recession-proof
  • (Under rechargeable, adj. and n.)
    • rechargeability
  • (Under recharge, v.)
    • recharged
  • (Under re-chip, v.)
    • re-chipping
  • (Under reciprocal, adj. and n.)
    • reciprocal altruism
    • reciprocal hybrid
  • (Under recite, v.)
    • recitable
  • (Under reclose, v.2)
    • reclosable
  • (Under recluse, adj., n., and adv.)
    • recluse spider
    • brown recluse spider
  • (Under recognizance, n.)
    • Recognizance Rolls
  • (Under recoil, n.)
    • recoil-operated
  • (Under recoin, v.)
    • recoined
  • (Under recollecting, adj.)
    • recollectingly
  • (Under recombinant, adj. and n.)
    • recombinant DNA
  • (Under recombination, n.)
    • recombination line
  • (Under recompact, v.)
    • recompacted
  • (Under reconfigure, v.)
    • reconfigured
    • reconfiguring
  • (Under recontextualize, v.)
    • recontextualization
    • recontextualizing
    • recontextualized
  • (Under recontour, v.)
    • recontoured
    • recontouring
  • (Under recordable, adj.)
    • recordability
  • (Under record, n.1 and adj.)
    • record contract
    • record deal
    • record locking
    • record producer
    • record-buying
    • record promoter
    • record-sized
  • (Under recorder, n.1)
    • recorder’s nose
  • (Under recording, n.)
    • recording artist
    • recording artiste
    • recording contract
    • recording deal
    • recording secretary
  • (Under recovery, n.)
    • recovery movement
    • recovery party
    • recovery programme
    • recovery stock
  • (Under recreance, n.2)
    • letter of recreance
  • (Under recreational, adj.)
    • recreational vehicle
  • (Under recreation, n.1)
    • recreation day
  • (Under recriminate, v.)
    • recriminating
  • (Under recruiting, n.)
    • recruiting book
    • recruiting drum
    • recruiting order
    • recruiting duty
    • recruiting expenses
    • recruiting post
  • (Under recruitment, n.)
    • recruitment agency
    • recruitment campaign
    • recruitment consultant
    • recruitment drive
    • recruitment office
  • (Under rectal, adj.)
    • rectal pad
  • (Under rectangular, adj.)
    • rectangularwise
  • (Under rectory, n.)
    • rectory book
  • (Under rectovesical, adj.)
    • rectovesical pouch
  • (Under recurrence, n.)
    • recurrence rate
  • (Under recurrent, adj. and n.1)
    • recurrent fever
    • recurrent nova
    • recurrent polyserositis
  • (Under recycle, adj. and n.)
    • recycle bin

Out-of-sequence new entries

11 June 2009 also saw the publication of the the following new entries from across the alphabet:

  • ad absurdum, adv., (n.), and adj.
  • afference, n.
  • A-gay, n.
  • amateur night, n. and adj.
  • Baader–Meinhof, n.
  • Bahian, n. and adj.
  • bailout, n.2
  • benzylpiperazine, n.
  • blizzard, v.
  • blizzarding, adj.
  • blue state, n. and adj.
  • botryogen, n.
  • bumhole, n.
  • bupkis, n.
  • Bushian, adj.
  • bushism, n.1
  • Bushism, n.2
  • Bushist, adj. and n.
  • buttload, n.
  • cami, n.
  • car-booter, n.
  • cisterna chyli, n.
  • Clintonesque, adj.
  • Clintonian, n.1 and adj.1
  • Clintonian, n.2 and adj.2
  • Clintonista, n.
  • combuster, n.
  • combustor, n.
  • commitment-phobe, n.
  • commitment-phobia, n.
  • commitment-phobic, adj. and n.
  • configurable, adj.
  • debunching, n.
  • densification, n.
  • dick, v.
  • Durif, n.
  • dwarf planet, n.
  • extensivist, n.
  • footwell, n.
  • fudgicle, n.
  • fudgsicle, n.
  • gallerist, n.
  • grilled cheese, n.
  • guayabera, n.
  • haematoporphyria | hematoporphyria, n.
  • hardbody, n.
  • Hiberno-English, n. and adj.
  • hijra, n.
  • inartful, adj.
  • intensivist, n.
  • i-redly, adv.
  • Irish English, n. and adj.
  • jakey, n.
  • kulfi, n.
  • Madame Récamier, n.
  • naser, n.
  • nixtamal, n.
  • plasmoditrophoblast, n.
  • searchability, n.
  • stache, n.
  • Sternberg–Reed, n.
  • swotty, n. and adj.
  • turducken, n.

In addition to these new entries, the following out-of-sequence subordinate entries were added:

  • (Under A, n.)
    • ABO
  • (Under amateur, n.)
    • amateur hour
  • (Under baggage, n. and adj.)
    • baggage claim
    • baggage reclaim
  • (Under bikini, n.)
    • bikini waxing
  • (Under block, n.)
    • blockwork
  • (Under blue, adj.)
    • blue balls
    • blue line
  • (Under boot, n.3)
    • boot sale
  • (Under car, n.1)
    • car boot
  • (Under congressional, adj.)
    • congressionally
  • (Under corridor, n.)
    • corridor of uncertainty
  • (Under disco, n.1)
    • disco ball
  • (Under eat, v.)
    • to eat in
  • (Under email, n.2)
    • email address
  • (Under fact, n.)
    • fact file
  • (Under fore-foot, n.)
    • forefoot striker
  • (Under front, n. (and adj.))
    • front crawl
  • (Under gender, n.)
    • gender dysphoria
    • gender dysphoric
  • (Under giant, n. and adj.)
    • giant redwood
  • (Under hang-, comb. form)
    • hang-up
  • (Under high, adj. and n.2)
    • high bush cranberry
  • (Under I, n.1)
    • IVM
  • (Under Irish, adj. and n.)
    • Irish breakfast
    • Irish breakfast tea
  • (Under irrebuttable, adj.)
    • irrebuttable presumption
  • (Under knock-down, adj. and n.)
    • knock down ginger
  • (Under lard, n.)
    • lard-arse
    • lard-arsed
  • (Under leap, n.1)
    • leap of faith
  • (Under river, n.1)
    • down the river
  • (Under shit | shite, n.)
    • shit-faced
    • shit fit
  • (Under snow, n.1)
    • snow alga
  • (Under sticky, adj.2)
    • sticky catchfly
  • (Under sunder, adj. and adv.)
    • sunder-reeveland
  • (Under take, v.)
    • to take away
    • to take out
  • (Under T, n.)
    • TMI
  • (Under tent, n.1)
    • tent pole
    • tent-pole man
  • (Under tumble, n.)
    • tumble turn
  • (Under W, n.)
    • WTF
  • (Under well, adv.)
    • well-received
  • (Under wolf, n.)
    • wolfberry

Finally, new meanings were added to the following entries:

  • aspirational, adj.
  • attending, n.
  • attending, adj.
  • baby, n.
  • back country, n.
  • bail, v.1
  • bale, v.3
  • beer, n.1
  • biblical, adj.
  • breakfast, n.
  • cat, n.1
  • collaborative, adj.
  • complete, v.
  • coping, n.1
  • crawl, v.1
  • cup, n.
  • drive-through, n. and adj.
  • enabler, n.
  • eye-ball | eyeball, v.
  • fore-foot, n.
  • front, v.1
  • go, v.
  • hat, n.
  • hater, n.1
  • homer, n.1
  • installation, n.
  • jury, n.
  • knob, v.
  • knock, v.
  • spot, n.1
  • sugar, n.
  • top, n.1
  • turn, n.
  • yo-yo, n.