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Word Watch 2013: Binge-watch

television, binge-watch

In terms of media consumption, 2013 has been an eventful year. Thanks to the ease of on-demand video streaming on sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video, film and video lovers have gravitated toward a few increasingly useful words to describe their novel viewing habits. One word on the rise this year is binge-watch.

In our next update, Dictionary.com will define binge-watch as: “to watch (multiple videos, episodes of a TV show, etc.) in one sitting or over a short period of time.” Before on-demand video-streaming technology became widespread, binge-watching still existed, but with a much higher price tag; you could buy DVDs of entire seasons of TV shows, but this practice was cost-prohibitive for many. Now millions of users have access to hundreds of shows to watch without leaving their home for under $10 a month.

Streaming services such as Netflix encourage binge-watching by releasing all the episodes of their original series at the same time. This was the case with the highly anticipated new season of Arrested Development, which many fans planned to watch all in one sitting. Further easing binge-watching, Netflix automatically plays the next episode of a series if the user takes no action. This viewing pattern is parodied in Portlandia’s “One More Episode,” when a couple takes binge-watching to an extreme (even if their method of binge-watching is via old-fashioned DVDs).

The term binge-watch originates from the term binge, which in some English dialects meant “to soak a wooden vessel to prevent it from leaking.” By the mid-1800s, binge could be used metaphorically to describe a drinking spree, which led to the term binge drinking about a hundred years later. While binge drinker was the first use of binge- in a compound, other terms soon followed. Binge eating came along in the late 1950s, and has soared in usage since the 1980s.

Binge-watching isn’t the only term to describe new media-consumption habits. There’s power-streaming, which refers specifically to the streaming of videos online. Additionally, there’s marathoning, or watching a show marathon-style. Starting in the late 1940s, TV marathons existed, but they were usually call-in charity drives. By the late ’70s and early ’80s, people could binge-watch TV and movie marathons, though viewers had no power over the programming. One Netflix executive told the Wall Street Journal that he doesn’t like the term binge because of its negative connotations of excess; instead he prefers marathon, which, to him “sounds more celebratory.” What’s your preferred way to refer to this popular pattern of media consumption? Do you think the word binge-watch is here to stay?

Our next installment of Word Watch 2013 explores a term that bounced into the spotlight with help of a former Disney superstar. Can you guess which word we’re talking about?

19 Comments

  1. Pretty101 -  February 18, 2014 - 11:21 am

    Pam I agree I am also a Harry potter fan in 6 grade I gotte mad tweets and on face book I gotte a lot of feedbacks and the Harry potter fans r ova 100,000,987 dat includes ma also on tweets I also got dat binge reading is a word I’ll look it up on the dictionary

    Reply
  2. Pretty101 -  February 18, 2014 - 11:15 am

    If sexaholic is a word then a vipaholic is one one I’m pretty sure give feed back

    Reply
  3. Pretty101 -  February 18, 2014 - 11:14 am

    Well if telophase then secs phase must be a word too

    Reply
  4. Pretty101 -  February 18, 2014 - 11:13 am

    Well if you like the word poop I wonder if instagatjkn is a word also lol and if instagation is a word then I’ll watch sex in the city or the closer TNT lol

    Reply
  5. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 11, 2014 - 2:32 am

    @Pam:
    If binge-watch is a word, then I’m sure binge-read is a word as well. As anyone who has read Harry Potter (like me and you) will know! :D BTW, how did you make those lightning bolts in your comment?

    Reply
  6. Pam -  February 6, 2014 - 7:22 am

    Wow, this is really weird! I binge-watch without even knowing it! (ever heard of Tim Hawkins?) If this is a word, then is binge-read a word? Because that’s Harry Potter for you…. ⚡⚡Pam⚡⚡

    Reply
  7. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 3, 2014 - 3:59 am

    @{Curly_Brace}:
    It means to watch a whole lot of movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, etc. at once. Usually they are related, such as all the Harry Potter movies, a season (or all of them) of Doctor Who, or all of Pewdiepie’s videos on YouTube.

    Reply
  8. {Curly_Brace} -  January 22, 2014 - 5:31 pm

    I don’t understand the word or the meaning…Maybe I do “binge-watching” without even knowing!

    Reply
  9. Android Apps -  December 21, 2013 - 12:10 am

    Firstly thanks for the nice one again.. I don’t get why this should be the word or even twerk i mean gangsta on the other hand is so much better and it has been used for so many years now and it’ll probably stay popular for a long time so it should be gangstar.

    Reply
  10. Wesley -  December 18, 2013 - 1:30 am

    The Breaking Bad series made this word real to me.

    Reply
  11. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 8, 2013 - 6:58 am

    I binge-watched WolfQuest videos for several days, until I ran out. I saw all of them – Spirit’s Life (the complete series), BlueMoon, Forbidden Love, Shadow’s Story, and the rest. Even some videos of glitches (those I really laughed while watching). If anyone reading this comment plays WolfQuest, has watched WolfQuest videos, or at least has heard of WolfQuest, please say so in your comment. I’m looking for other WolfQuesters. Thanks!

    I have a friend who watched whole seasons of Little House on the Prairie in a matter of days. She hardly took her nose out of her portable DVD player till she was finished.

    There are lots of cartoon marathons on channels like Cartoon Network and Disney XD. Sensei Wu-Hoo Weekend, The Best of Candace Marathon, Pink Panther Marathon…the list goes on.

    Reply
  12. razzist -  December 7, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    I thought binge-watch meant to spy on someone when they go on an alcohol spree… Oh boy.

    Reply
  13. takopwa ezekiel -  December 7, 2013 - 2:43 am

    i need related articles

    Reply
  14. Gordy Angster -  December 6, 2013 - 5:30 pm

    I don’t get why this should be the word or even twerk i mean gangsta on the other hand is so much better and it has been used for so many years now and it’ll probably stay popular for a long time so it should be gangsta

    Reply
  15. Jarod -  December 6, 2013 - 7:44 am

    Word sucks you should put twerkin instead
    :3

    Reply
  16. Scia -  December 5, 2013 - 11:34 am

    I’d think ‘binge watching’ would be considered two words, even hyphenated.

    I also tend to think of it as more of watching a bunch of episodes that you haven’t seen before, though maybe that’s just when I usually tend to ‘binge watch.’ Marathons strike me as more of a planned programming type of thing, or otherwise something shared to more than one person as it’s broadcast/played.

    Reply
  17. Santa Louis -  December 5, 2013 - 11:29 am

    Like the great, old Shakespeare said, “This word SUCKS”

    Reply
  18. Santa Claus -  December 5, 2013 - 11:12 am

    I disagree with this informal word. On the other hand, POOP is essential to human life. POOP relieves people from constipation and could obviously save a life. This magnanimous, chivalric word should obviously be the Word of the Year. The elves here in my workshop would be so happy with you Dictinary.com nerds.
    Merry Chirstman!!!!
    You’ll be seeing more of me tomorrow…

    Reply
  19. wealth splendour -  December 4, 2013 - 5:39 am

    Binge watching is the grammar that suits this habit. The rate of media comsumption these days is becoming too alarming..

    People prefer sitting on TV to their business. Binge is not a foul language, so it will stand the test of time.

    Reply

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