Dictionary.com Revamps LGBTQ+, Race, And Mental Health Language In Biggest Update Ever

“2020 has been a year of change like never before, affecting how we live, work, interact — and how we use language.”

Talk about queering language! Dictionary.com announced last week that it will be adding 650 new words to its catalog as well as revising definitions of over 11,000 existing words,

According to the website, the update is the largest ever undertaken by the company and is meant to reflect the changing language around sexual orientation, gender, race, mental health, and more. One newly-added term is “biromantic,” which refers to someone who is romantically attracted to people of two distinctly different genders. The recently updated terms include “ace,” which used to be defined as a “very skilled person” or a playing card. Now, however, “ace” also officially refers to the nickname form of “asexual,” a sexual orientation defined as being “free from sexual desires or sexuality.” Other words that have been newly introduced or updated include “deadname,” “trans+,” “Pride,” and “gender-inclusive.”

Dictionary.com also made the decision, along with input from GLAAD and the American Psychological Association, to remove the entries for “homosexual” and “homosexuality,” instead choosing to replace them with “gay” and “gay sexual orientation.”

According to a press release by the website, the update was made because “homosexual and homosexuality are now associated with pathology, mental illness, and criminality, and so imply that being gay — a normal way of being — is sick, diseased, or wrong.”

“The work of a dictionary is more than just adding new words,” Dictionary.com senior editor John Kelly said in the release. “It’s an ongoing effort to ensure that how we define words reflects changes in language — and life.”

Major updates were also made to the racial terms listed on Dictionary.com thanks to a year defined by widespread Black Lives Matter protests following the police shootings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. As many text-based websites have changed their style guide to capitalize “Black,” so too will the dictionary website when referring to an individual’s identity. Other terms regarding race that have been added or updated include “Filipina,” “Afro-Latina,” “Pinay,” “Pinoy,” “Pinxy,” “Filipinx,” and “Afro-Latinx.”

“Capitalizing Black confers the due dignity to the shared identity, culture, and history of Black people,” reads a statement on the website. “It also aligns with the practice of using initial capital letters for many other ethnic groups and national identities, e.g., Hispanic.”

Other changes made by the dictionary website include changing the phrase “commit suicide” tp terms like “die by suicide” or “end one’s life,” which have been widely recommended by mental health advocacy groups — like the LGBTQ+-focused The Trevor Project — to ensure the correct language is being used so as not to retrigger anyone who has experienced mental health crises.

“2020 has been a year of change like never before, affecting how we live, work, interact — and how we use language,” Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, chief executive of Dictionary.com, notes in the statement.


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