Dictionary.com

20 Words That Mean More Than They Did 20 Years Ago

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For many of us, 1995 feels like just yesterday. The year marked the unveiling of Amazon, “the Rachel” haircut, and the Frappuccino. But there’s no denying that when it comes to technological advancements, 1995 was a lifetime ago. Twenty years ago, the dial-up modem and the VCR were among the prevailing technologies of the day. Today, smartphones and social media are cornerstones of daily life, and this momentous shift in how we live is reflected in how we speak. To commemorate the 20th birthday of Dictionary.com, we look back at 20 words that have expanded in meaning over the last 20 years.

Bump: to move an online post or thread to the top of the reverse chronological list by adding a new comment or post to the thread.

Cloud: any of several parts of the Internet that allow online processing and storage of documents and data as well as electronic access to software and other resources.

Core: the muscles of the torso, which provide support for the spine and pelvis.

Fail: to make an embarrassing or humorous mistake, be in a humiliating situation, etc., and be subject to ridicule.

Footprint: a unique set of characteristics, actions, etc., that leave a trace and serve as a means of identification.

Friend: to add a person to one’s list of contacts on a social-networking website.

Glance: information on an electronic screen that can be understood quickly or at a glance.

Goldilocks: not being extreme or not varying drastically between extremes, especially between hot and cold.

Like: to indicate one’s enjoyment of, agreement with, or interest in website content, especially in social media.

Meme: a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.

Ping: to make contact with someone by sending a brief electronic message, as a text message.

Profile: the personal details, images, user statistics, social-media timeline, etc., that an individual creates and associates with a username or online account.

Sandbox: an environment in which software developers or editors can create and test new content, separate from other content in the project.

Swipe: to move the fingers across a touchscreen.

Takeaway: conclusions, impressions, or action points resulting from a meeting, discussion, roundtable, or the like.

Text: to send a text message.

Timeline: a collection of online posts or updates associated with a specific social-media account, in reverse chronological order.

Tweet: a very short message posted on the Twitter website.

Unplug: to refrain from using digital or electronic devices for a period of time.

Viral: becoming very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially through the Internet.

What other terms can you think of that have expanded in meaning over the last 20 years? Share your picks with us in the comments!

 

74 Comments

  1. H.Howe -  April 12, 2016 - 9:52 am

    Then – “hook up” – as in hook up the lights or the car battery

    Now – “hook up” – want to hook up? – meaning engage in casual, uncommitted sex”

    Reply
  2. Lucy -  October 29, 2015 - 12:06 pm

    Dope and Whack have more meanings today than they did decades ago.

    Reply
  3. Donald -  October 29, 2015 - 9:32 am

    Thirsty – A characterization of those (predominately male) who prowl social websites solely for the purpose of satisfying their own sexual desires.

    Reply
    • Donald J. Trump -  March 21, 2016 - 6:42 am

      UUUUUMMMMMM NOOOPEPE DONALD DFOESNT APPPRORVE YEERR FEEEEIIIREEDDD

      Reply
  4. Phil O'Login -  October 28, 2015 - 10:25 pm

    Having assumed a new avatar to comment, at first I’m very gratified. Secondly, thanks to dic..com for saving me a zillion seconds in search of words. Bye 4 now !

    Reply
  5. light -  October 28, 2015 - 9:00 am

    Moshiach
    is a word that has gained so much momentum in the last 25 years

    Reply
  6. Fernando Keung -  October 26, 2015 - 6:09 am

    Ugh

    Reply
  7. Lee -  October 25, 2015 - 12:05 pm

    And then there’s junk. As recently as 2000 it referred to garbage or food containing no nutritional value. Now it means male genitalia.

    Reply
  8. Karen P. -  October 24, 2015 - 5:16 am

    If you’re age 50+, who freaking came up with the phrase ‘doughnut hole’.
    Don’t know what it is? You’ll know when you’re in it. FYI, it’s a Medicare term.

    Reply
  9. Robin Gibson -  October 22, 2015 - 5:03 am

    Most of these seem okay, but I really, really hope takeaway is what I think it is – just a transient bit of business jargon that will fall out of use like so many others. You never hear it outside the office.

    Reply
    • Lucy -  October 29, 2015 - 12:01 pm

      In the UK ‘takeaway’ is the jargon used instead of ‘takeout’ for food you are taking to go.

      Reply
  10. joanne -  October 21, 2015 - 9:28 am

    Share, dish, spam

    Reply
  11. Creeper Gurl -  October 20, 2015 - 12:10 pm

    Graphic has become more widely used.

    Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 22, 2015 - 5:16 am

      Cool

      Reply
    • Cody Elis -  October 23, 2015 - 12:12 pm

      im dumb

      Reply
  12. Len -  October 20, 2015 - 9:45 am

    The difficulty I see here is if one takes these meanings as the only rather than a new alternative. Since only when we are dead do we stop reusing language and recontextualizing usage.

    Reply
  13. emerald creeper -  October 19, 2015 - 2:25 pm

    :P

    Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:39 am

      Who is this

      Reply
  14. emerald creeper -  October 19, 2015 - 2:25 pm

    nice :D

    Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 22, 2015 - 5:18 am

      Really

      Reply
  15. Blkgrrl48 -  October 19, 2015 - 11:23 am

    FLAME, the one word in the early years of internet speech that caused me a lot of trouble back in ’97. I had to trash a certain group and warned them about my intention to “flame” certain members. My first post to be removed by the group’s admin. Ah, memories…

    Reply
  16. Karen -  October 19, 2015 - 10:02 am

    Hi –
    How do I find a list of your slideshows. I think they’re great!

    Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:30 am

      Go to your photos on your phone

      Reply
  17. static -  October 19, 2015 - 8:38 am

    I can think of a few; two right of the top of my head are:

    gay
    20 years ago this word was synonymous with blithesome and only in minute use as it is commonly used today.

    square
    which used to refer to a four sided polygon or a drafting/carpentry tool.

    Reply
    • Randy -  October 20, 2015 - 3:36 am

      Sorry, Static, it’s been a lot longer than 20! One could point to a play and film from 1970, “The Boys in the Band,” as one of the popularizers of that usage. One gay character refers to the inherent irony in the use of “gay” for “male homosexual” as they are all so seemingly sad. Obviously, it would need to be in common usage for that to make sense. (Please don’t take this as support for the point of view of this play/film script.It’s rather primitive.The story died off when HIV/AIDS came along and stole the press.)
      And “square” has had a many-sided history. It also used to mean “honest,” then “straight arrow.” Now with its use as the name of a credit card processing company, it has maybe gone full circle back to “trustworthy.”

      Reply
      • Paul -  October 22, 2015 - 5:42 pm

        Are you serious? Those words have meant the current definitions in popular culture since the 1950s (for square) or the 1960s (gay). The term gay was used by that community going back to the 1920s I believe and wasn’t widely used until the 1960s and 1970s. Square predates me and I turn 55 next week!

        Reply
    • Jan -  October 23, 2015 - 2:03 pm

      Oh my gosh, 20 years ago ‘gay’ meant blithesome?! At LEAST twice that long ago!

      Reply
  18. hi -  October 18, 2015 - 9:41 am

    HI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Rayyan -  October 19, 2015 - 10:55 am

      Hi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Reply
      • Rayyan -  October 19, 2015 - 10:57 am

        Sorry, I posted this in the comments, it was supposed to be a reply for ”hi”.

        Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:39 am

      Hey

      Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 22, 2015 - 6:38 am

      Hi

      Reply
  19. Farm Girl -  October 17, 2015 - 5:54 pm

    Really! To me a sandbox is still a big box of sand outside for playing in!

    Reply
    • Tech Farm -  October 19, 2015 - 5:49 pm

      Well of Course THAT’s What A Sandbox still is to you, and a few other lucky people… You’re On The Farm! AwAy from the urban Zombies!!

      Reply
      • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:33 am

        Yes, yes I am

        Reply
    • Richard -  October 20, 2015 - 5:34 am

      The idea of a sandbox remains the same. A digital sandbox is pretty much just that- a digital sandbox. It allows developers to play around, basically.
      Also, a sandbox could refer to something that is even more like a real sandbox- sandbox video games, like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto, where you go around and do whatever you feel like doing.

      Reply
      • sam nichols -  October 22, 2015 - 3:33 pm

        Don’t forget Minecraft!!

        Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 22, 2015 - 6:21 am

      Cool I really don’t care

      Reply
  20. Jose -  October 17, 2015 - 5:50 pm

    poke for the Facebook poke, DVD, DVR, blog, hashtag, drone, selfie, sexts, laptop, tablet, Apple, iPhone, iPad, smartphone, e-mail, WiFi, wireless, malware, spam, Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, password, security, unfollow, Tumblr, Pinterest, Flickr, Reddit, retweet, DM, text message, cellular phone. I was born in 1992 so I have heard such terms throughout my life!

    Reply
    • Tony -  October 20, 2015 - 8:43 pm

      Jose,

      Many of those are actually newly created words. Very interesting as well, but the focus of the article was older words which adopted new meanings in the modern age.

      Reply
      • Bob gilbert -  October 22, 2015 - 6:22 am

        No

        Reply
      • Ron -  October 28, 2015 - 5:04 pm

        Yes!

        Reply
  21. Steve -  October 17, 2015 - 5:43 pm

    TAB :keystroke used a lot in Excel
    DRIVE: starts with C
    PARK: to park a drive
    OPERA or CHROME: browser
    ZIP: to compress data
    ACROBAT: document software
    EXE: executeable file not the TV show
    MOUSE: pointing device

    Reply
    • Randy -  October 20, 2015 - 3:36 am

      Tab is also a soft drink my wife loves! (Yes, they still make it.)

      Reply
      • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:29 am

        That crap is really good,they have it in stores

        Reply
    • Correction -  November 18, 2015 - 7:51 pm

      I am sorry, but a disk drive does not always start with C: You can name it what ever you want but popularly, people do not change the disk name.

      Reply
  22. saviour Nkansah -  October 17, 2015 - 8:37 am

    Hi my name is saviour,you have been helping a lot of student like me so keep it up.Thank you.

    Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:25 am

      Hope you like it

      Reply
  23. Stuart Elson -  October 17, 2015 - 4:06 am

    Ecosystem, which now relates to electronic platforms
    Brand, which now has replaced reputation as the word of choice to define how on a personal level how an individual, especially in business, wants to be known and perceived

    Reply
  24. Mary -  October 16, 2015 - 4:11 pm

    How about the word SpamIt has changed from being just a can of meat to bad email.

    Reply
    • Tech Farm -  October 19, 2015 - 6:00 pm

      Well Time Seems to have zipped past… “Spam” (mass junk email) made its’ debut nearly 25-Years Ago! Fortunately, thanks to anti-spam filters, it’s no longer a viable method for advertising.

      Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 22, 2015 - 6:25 am

      Cool

      Reply
  25. matthew Uka -  October 16, 2015 - 3:45 pm

    Lol, page, cascade, add, barcode, delist. Unfriend, refresh,

    Reply
  26. Robin Solis -  October 16, 2015 - 2:33 pm

    It was my idea on face book to use “Like” instead of “fan” when I first got on fb late summer of 2008. The first page I set up had a particular pic on it that I won’t disclose but in the about section told the philosophy that just because I was following something didn’t make me a “fan”. I prefer a term more like “LIKE”. I can like something. That doesn’t make me a fan. And within two weeks, the Fan stuff was all changed to Likes.

    Reply
    • Tech Farm -  October 19, 2015 - 6:02 pm

      THAT Was You?!!

      Reply
      • Bob gilbert -  October 22, 2015 - 6:30 am

        Are u talking to me?

        Reply
      • Lenae -  October 29, 2015 - 2:52 am

        Are you serious? You changed fan to like?

        Reply
    • Richard -  October 20, 2015 - 5:25 am

      Yeah, and I’m Mark Zuckerberg. I hate to break it to you, but unless you can prove that you came up with the ‘Like’ system, nobody’s going to give a damn.

      Reply
      • Lenae -  October 29, 2015 - 2:53 am

        Yeah, because seriously, that does sound a little unlikely.

        Reply
  27. Mary -  October 16, 2015 - 12:50 pm

    Minion- Cute little yellow guy!

    Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:26 am

      I know right

      Reply
  28. ROBERT -  October 16, 2015 - 8:09 am

    Nice. Very useful.

    Reply
    • Bob gilbert -  October 22, 2015 - 6:31 am

      Cool right

      Reply
  29. Shamsuddin Ahmed -  October 15, 2015 - 1:12 pm

    Congratulations on 20th birthday. I benefit a lot from Dictionary.com. Live long.

    Reply
  30. PAL -  October 15, 2015 - 8:05 am

    Sometimes I wonder if life without social media would be a good thing.
    If we weren’t so busy caring about our own online profiles, maybe we’d be more busy caring about other people, or actually working for a living instead of tweeting all day.

    Reply
    • Rayyan -  October 19, 2015 - 10:53 am

      Look PAL. I’m a guy who isn’t allowed to use social media, and it is has done WONDERS to my life. I am not looking at the screen of my iPhone all day long, posting videos and stuff, and now I can focus on my studies and get great scores like 100/100 and not scores like 10/100. Also, I have a friend, let’s call him person A, he texted his friend, person B, and person A made a rude insult on some social media, only for fun, and person B knew this was a joke, but person B’s father saw the joke and he didn’t like it. he reported through our school, and person A got suspended from the school, only for using social media.

      Reply
      • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:27 am

        Why not

        Reply
      • Lenae -  October 29, 2015 - 2:55 am

        Hey I can’t use it either – and I’m not crying about it!

        Reply
    • Richard -  October 20, 2015 - 5:28 am

      Of course it would.
      I think the idea has good potential, but it’s used by a bunch of vapid idiots (AKA the average person today) who care more about how ‘on point’ their fashion is or how popular they are than about any individual person.

      Reply
      • Bob gilbert -  October 21, 2015 - 6:37 am

        I know right

        Reply
      • Creepuccino -  October 26, 2015 - 11:35 am

        Ugh, I know, right?! It’s so annoying! As I sit in this class room at this moment there are so many of those kinds of people! They make me sick. Seriously, what is this world coming to!?

        Reply
        • Creepuccino -  October 26, 2015 - 11:36 am

          classroom* Ew, my grammar is gross.

          Reply
    • Matilda -  October 21, 2015 - 11:13 am

      It would be a much better world if we didn’t have all the technology that we have today. People would be much nicer and more curious.

      Reply
  31. Sheila kennedy -  October 15, 2015 - 6:06 am

    Spam is another word that expanded from a brand name for canned meat to unwanted junk mail that could also contain another word that has expanded its meaning on 20 years – “virus”.

    Reply

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