November 2, 2018

Time travel with Merriam-Webster


Travel back in time with this cool dictionary website. Yes, “cool” and “dictionary” can exist next to each other in a sentence. 

Now, think of the last time you looked up a word in the dictionary. Remember the part at the way bottom of the definition that records the word’s first known use? Merriam-Webster reformatted that information into a user-friendly time machine. With the new online tool, you can pick a year from before the 12th century to 2016 and receive  a list of words that were first recorded in that year. Merriam-Webster does have a few notes for first-time time travelers before traveling:

  1. The date may not represent the very oldest sense of the word. Many obsolete, archaic, and uncommon senses have been excluded from this dictionary, and such senses have not been taken into consideration in determining the date.
  2. The date most often does not mark the very first time that the word was used in English. Many words were in spoken use for decades or even longer before they passed into the written language. The date is for the earliest written or printed use that the editors have been able to discover.
  3. The date is subject to change. Many of the dates provided will undoubtedly be updated as evidence of still earlier use emerges.

We suspect the reason the program is called “Time Traveler” is because it places you into the important cultural words of the time. For example, if you click 2002 you will find “parkour” and “noob.” The time machine also shares our technological progress over the years with words like “hashtag” and “listicle” first appearing in 2007. This website is the perfect way to spend time laughing and avoiding responsibilities. We won’t keep you any longer, travel away friends.




Christina Cerio is the Manager of Direct Sales & Special Projects at Melville House.