"Woke" Added to Oxford English Dictionary

June 27th, 2017 - 12:26 PM EDT by Matt Schimkowitz

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Definition of woke reading "1) Well-informed, up-to-date 2) alert to injustice in society, especially racism"

The Oxford-English Dictionary has made one of its four annual updates for 2017, and finally decided that it's time to get "woke."

One of the world's foremost authorities on the English language, the O.E.D. has added a new definition to the word "woke." Embraced by the Black Lives Matter movement, "woke" has taken on a sociopolitical definition in recent years. As such, the O.E.D. now defines the past participle form of "woke" as:

woke, adjective: Originally: well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice; frequently in stay woke (often used as an exhortation).

While "woke," and more specifically "stay woke" have grown in prominence over the last two years, "woke" has been used to define political awareness, specifically in terms of racial issues since the 1960s. The O.E.D. cites an article by African-American writer William Melvin Kelley entitled "If you’re woke, you dig it" from the May 20th, 1962 issue of The New York Times Magazine as the earliest example. The article and accompanying cartoon criticizes white beatniks for appropriating black culture.

Cartoon "If You're Woke, You Dig It" depicts illustrations of white beatniks appropriating black culture.

In addition to "woke," the O.E.D. also added several more words and definitions. Last year, the dictionary named "post-truth" the word of the year, and this year, they've added it to their official pages with the definition "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

Other updates include, the South American weevil known as "Zyzzyva," which has supplanted "zythum" as the last word in the dictionary, and a new sense of "thing," which is now a thing, literally. According to the new definition, "thing" can be used to refer to “a genuine or established phenomenon or practice," typically in questions conveying surprise or incredulity, as in "is that even a thing?”

So, now when you jump on some teens back for how they use the words "woke," "thing," or "zyzzyva," have the decency to know that you're wrong.

Character from ABC's Blackish in black beanie and black button up shirt sitting on a bed saying but I'm woke now

Top Comments


"we need to stay angry, and stay woke"

…there has not been a single person on Earth who has unironically said this phrase before. I thought dictionary examples were supposed to sound like something people would actually say..? Did… did the OED people just throw a hidden jab at BLM on an official word definition that will now stay forever..?

This might have consequences… of the hilarious type.


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