Urban Dictionary research shows English evolving

The slang dictionary offers a radical alternative to traditionally edited dictionaries.
The slang dictionary offers a radical alternative to traditionally edited dictionaries. Photo credit: Getty

Researchers are studying Urban Dictionary to understand how language is changing.

The slang dictionary, made up of crowd-sourced words and definitions, offers a radical alternative to traditionally edited dictionaries.

Now, UK scholars are digging into the online site to see how English works.

"Over time, new words enter the lexicon, others become obsolete and existing words acquire new meanings," the researchers' media release says.

"We measure a high presence of opinion-focused entries, as opposed to the meaning-focused entries that we expect from traditional dictionaries. Furthermore, Urban Dictionary covers many informal, unfamiliar words as well as proper nouns."

The website has hosted some of the younger generation's most popular words before they became famous - including terms like "selfie", and "on fleek".

"Because it has a much lower threshold for entries to be added than traditional dictionaries (meaning entries can be added faster), UK researchers are using it to track how language is changing," the researchers' media release says.

"They note 'selfie' didn't make its way into the Oxford Dictionary until 2013, but it was first spotted in Urban Dictionary in 2009, and as of July 2016 had 76 entries. The researchers were also able to track the rise of 'on fleek' in 2014 based on the number of Urban Dictionary entries."

Newshub.