The Year that Words Were First Used in Print

In the year that I was born, 1966, some words which were used for the first time in print were:

cryonics, art deco, assault weapon, ROM, biocontainment, hot button, kung fu, meth, male-pattern baldness, multitasking, multiorgasmic, Medicaid, number cruncher, paperless, street smarts, ranch dressing, z-score

I would have guessed that many of these terms were older.

New words in recent years are ico, manspreading, utility token and aquafaba (?).

All this is according to the Merriam-Webster Time Traveler.

Hat tip: Paul Kedrosky.


I find words are often coined later than we think they would have been. For example, the English word knight only gained the meaning we understand it to have in the 1300s even though that particular role existed long before.

Maybe, but there used to be a large time lag from time t1 -- when a word is first coined (on the streets, so to speak) -- and time t2 -- when the luminaries at Webster's finally get around to recognizing this coinage in their dictionary

It says "catch-22" was first used in print in 1977.

Joseph Heller published his book "Catch-22" in 1961.

It claims that "munchkin" was first used in 1972, despite The Wizard of Oz being published in 1900. I think it has to do a bit with the words being genericized; "munchkin" being used for any small thing as opposed to the particular people, a "catch-22" describing other situations like the novel.

Welcome to social quality control.

The list is not accurate. I found one clear error for my birth year, for something that was not even invented yet.

Another AlexT fun but 'trollbait' post.

what did they call art-deco before 1966?

There was no gnerally used English term for the style as a whole before then, though it appears some arts dealers had adapted it already from the French.

The French called it "Arts Deco", shortening from the earlier and not entirely related "arts decoratifs" from 1925.

so the English used the French word for forty years then shortened it
by a few letters
like the americans did with frenchfries

Around these parts, we call "Art Deco" a cuck.

What? Always thought all the beautiful art deco cars where called like that at the time.
I'm curious now about how people described the 1930s Pininfarinas , Bugattis and Rolls Royces. So, when do we started calling a Talbot Lago art deco?

And this is specific to these word entering print in English. Since "kung fu" is an anglicization, surely it existed in print in other forms prior to 1966.

As a native Chinese speaker, it surprised me tremendously to hear that even the anglicization was so recent. I do believe that only the reference to martial arts is modern though - as this link above suggests, the original meaning of "kung-fu" (workmanship) was anglicized thusly over a century ago.

Quite interesting! But you're right that some of the words are attested earlier. For example, a search of finds "ranch dressing" as part of a recipe published in 1945 in a Maryland newspaper, and in advertisements from the early 1960s onward; "paperless" in the modern sense by the 1940s; and "assault weapon" in the modern sense by the 1950s. And that's before we get started on other databases. The Time Traveler is a very cool tool, but I suppose that the dictionary, too, we must trust but verify.

According to Wikipedia, ranch dressing was not invented until the early 1950s.

Nobody translated Sturmgewehr into English from 1944 to 1966?

I find that ... hard to believe. Perhaps it doesn't include enough technical sources, say in military theory.

Maybe something could find early Armalite brochures, but my guess is that the term wasn't needed to build the things.

Here we go, the 1956 AR-10 was a "lightweight automatic basic infantry weapon."

This is when words were popular enough to appear in the dictionary. Alex's title is slightly misleading.

Fun. A lot of the words from my birth year shaped my life.

"cryonics, art deco, assault weapon, ROM, biocontainment, hot button, kung fu, meth, male-pattern baldness, multitasking, multiorgasmic, Medicaid, number cruncher, paperless, street smarts, ranch dressing, z-score"

BTW, "art deco" is obsolete, it has been replaced with "Tabarrok to the Pillory".

Curious when the work 'cuck' first appeared. Probably online way before it was 'in print'.

"Assault weapon" comes directly from the German "sturmgewehr" which stretches back to at least 1944 with the StG 44. It's possible that the English translation first appeared in print 22 years later, but not likely.

Kung fu is a variant of gung fu or gong fu which are ancient. It is doubtful that 1966 was the first attempt at pinyin unless one literally means "kung fu" and not any variant.

Gung ho was used by US servicepersons in World War II. They got the term from a New Zealander who was a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

Of course, what Cowen is identifying is the long trend away from the use of words with universal meaning to what might be considered tribal words: words that have meaning only to those within a particular tribe. The trend has accelerated with the current generation, first by substituting acronyms for words (LOL, OMG, etc.) and more recently by substituting symbols for words (emojis). As our means of communication have become more sophisticated, our method of communication has become more primitive.

Alex Tabarrok posted this.
More fundamentally, you are aware of the existence of such things as slang, patois, and jargon, right?

I assumed it was a clever ruse to get all our birth years, and therefore that much closer to all of our credit card accounts.

Let me quote Patton's Brig. Gen. McAuliffe: Nuts, rayward, Alex T. wrote this, LOL.

Ridiculously bad data.
It says that "Tundra swan" dates back from 1984. Google Books shows that it appears in print in such obscure publications as "The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition" in 1806........

Yeah it appears this is simply a garbage link. It happens.

How do they know? Do they have a comprehensive online database of every printed publication to search?

I spot checked a handful, and it seems about half accurate and half close enough. Not far enough off to really fret about.


I rather dislike the term "manspreading". It is vulgar and coarse. Moreover, it is decidedly inaccurate to accuse one half of the population of this, when it is perfectly obvious to anyone who uses public transportation that women are capable of this too.

(In this respect it is like "mansplaining", which is equally inaccurate, as anyone who has been cornered in a meeting, corridor, etc., by an angry female can attest. Thus, there should be a female equivalent, like "chicksplaining". Or in the interest of fairness and accuracy we should coin a non-gender specific term like "personsplaining", but yeah, ain't going to happen.)

how do you feel about the term

It doesn't sound correct. How about "Pursing"?

good book
zen and the art of motorcycle maintence

Tha's Pirsig.

the car keys?

I like "pursing." It is quite descriptive of the female equivalent of "manspreading." "Bagspreading" is another possibility that covers everyone.

No, bagspreading is when the women has a pile of stuff and a very large "purse" that may or may not contain an entire dog. In that case, the bag gets the second seat, the pile of stuff gets the third seat. Thus, 'she's' not really spreading to the third seat, her bag is. IE Bagspreading.

Think saddlebags not handbags.

And maybe if women had sex organs hanging out their crotch, they might favor sitting with their thighs more open, too. Just sayin. There's a reason men are more likely to sit like this, and it's not some weird power trip for most of us.

On the meaning of words:

“He’s an intentional liar,” Scaramucci said of Trump, while on Bloomberg TV. “It’s very different from just being a liar-liar.”

2016 tennessine - a short-lived artificially produced radioactive element that has 117 protons —symbol Ts

You should really never let Rednecks play with nuclear reactors. Nothing good can come of it.

on the other hand
the physicists sed
"The concept of an “island of stability” is that there is a group of superheavy elements that should have increased stability and novel physical and chemical properties that could lead to new technologies, such as compact energy sources, if they can be created."

We'll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets The Bomb

--Tom Lehrer, "Who's Next"

Google Ngrams has its own flaws, yet it seems a more useful tool than Merriam-Websters Time Travler

ico? I recognize that as a word if it is in all-caps, but in lower case I don't know if that is a thing.

As more and more historical documents become available online, date of use for words will get pushed further and further back.

I don't know if the Oxford English dictionary has been updated yet, but:

India : 1952!!!
LOL. Didn't realize I am as old as the country I was born in.

Oh my. This says duct tape was first used in print in 1973?
What did people use to fix things before then? Those poor people!

spit and baling wire.

It seems that the term "Oval Office" first appeared in print in 1962, the year I was born. Where did the President work before then?

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