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Blog > December Writing Prompt: New words in the year you were born


The writing prompts invite postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcards’ messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

We have a forum topic for people to contribute writing prompt suggestions for us, and Heather (aka HeatherSuncoast) picked a fun one. If you look at the dictionary Merriam-Webster’s website, you can find out the words that entered the English language in the year you were born.

In December, tell us a little about a word that was first used in the year you were born.

Perusing the year I was born, there are a lot of worthy candidates. I’m quite taken by the word “bombogenesis” (the rapid intensification of a storm caused by a sudden drop in atmospheric pressure), and as a biologist, I’m fascinated to see that we started talking about "DNA phenotyping“ (the process of predicting various things about an organism, such as how it will look, based on a DNA sample alone). It’s also the first year the word ”cybernaut" was used, which seems pretty old-fashioned now.

A large pool, vividly coloured orange around the rim

But the one that surprised me was the word “extremophile”. An extremophile is an organism that lives under extreme environmental conditions, like in a volcanic hotspring or under the ice caps, where most organisms wouldn’t survive. They’re pretty astounding when you think about the kind of conditions they live under, and they’re also responsible for some really beautiful sights, like the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone (pictured), because they create such vivid colours. I was surprised that we didn’t have a word for this kind of organism until 1989!

What about you? Did you find a word that you love, introduced in the year you were born? Or something that seemed appropriate? We’d love to hear your stories, in the comments here and on your postcards this month!

73 comments so far

meiadeleite, Portugal
The words for my year include "tiramisu", "pixelated", "poutine", "product placement" and "quantum computer"... wow! 😳
_zahra_, Bangladesh
The words that were first used in the year I was born are: Skype, unfriend, flash mob, binge-watch, SARS-CoV, social distancing, eggcorn, clap back, level up .... !!!
Gilga1280, Germany
Ive got a few ones :)
LookOutKid, Germany
I‘ve found a lot of interesting words and I created a whole sentence with it 😉 The found words are in capital letters:
I‘m sitting in my DIRECTOR‘S CHAIR - with my brand new STILETTO HEELS - while I‘m DIGITIZING my ideas to contruct an ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND for children to play with their SKATEBOARDS or SWAN BOATS. I feel like a MAIN MAN while drinking my ICE WINE !

best wishes to all postcrossers 😻
TwasBrillig, United States of America
I might need to curl up with my SECURITY BLANKET in a WAY-OUT TIME WARP and see if this is PROCESSIBLE , or is it ZILCH.

Happy holidays to you all!
adriennefriend, United States of America
@TwasBrillig you win 😂! And I agree 😂!
meiadeleite, Portugal
lol, these are so good! 😍
Marie-Therese, Portugal
I am so old that in my birthyear they introduced

Ballpoint pen
B and B
Fish Stick
Stiletto heel

And after that, I have (also introduced that year) a Tensionheadache !
booboo_babies, United States of America
I was surprised to see that the words CB (citizens band radio) and CBer (one who operates one of these radios) were introduced the year that I was born. I always associate CB radios with the 1970s, when they were in popular culture. I remember the song "Convoy", movies featuring CBs and truck drivers and I think that they were also seen in a few television series. Then CBs seemed to vanish as quickly as they had caught on a few years earlier.
simonzhou2001, China
Join the WTO and 911 incident in the United States
ruthkepler, United States of America
I sure had to scroll down a long time! My favorite in 1955 was "Parkinson's Law":
1. an observation in office organization: the number of employees increases at a fixed rate regardless of the amount of work produced.
2. an observation in office organization: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

I find particularly noticeable in government bureaucracies, but present among all human groups. I wonder if true in other creatures.
Aguaroble, Egypt
Do you know what chiweenies are?
They are dogs that are a cross between a Chihuahua and a dachshund!
Quite cute don't you think?
SuziH, Canada
My word for 1951 is "fast-food"!
Jolafee, France
3D printing, HTML, metaverse, cyber, biohacking, EVOO, pdf, URL, and I think my favorite: meh ! hahaha this is so interesting :)
ctr, Germany
"chocoholic" and "health club" were first used in my birth year 🤣🤣

But I was most astonished that the word "holidays" was first used in 1961. I thought it is a very old english word...
MuddyPawPrints, United States of America
Being a 1990 baby, here are the buzzwords of the year:
Clap back
Gift card
Internet Service Provider
World Wide Web
Amalaswintha, Germany
Barista, escape key, metalhead, overshare, snail mail, wordie
- I feel so seen 😁
Won't ever need to read a horoscope again 😅
petrini1, United States of America
I've got bait-and-switch, gigawatt, primordial soup, counterinsurgency, and Belgian waffle.
Regndroppar, Finland
Wow, a lot of technology & computing words I thought would be a lot younger:
3D printing
augmented reality
home page
flash drive

And the most surprising words LGTB studies and transphobia, already in the early 1990s!
dozugeo, Germany
Bromance, Internet of Things and anti-vaxxer got in in 2001 - interesting! ^^
Trenker, Germany
Videocassette and videocassette recorder! Things I used and loved when I was a teenager LOL
evbirch, United States of America
1980 saw the introduction of a lot of words related to computing and microbiology. I was shocked by "oat milk" and "video doorbell" being used so early!
As a linguistics major and general lover of words, I found it appropriate that "retronym" and "Wanderwort" were both added to the dictionary in my birth year. :)
mshaleymichelle, United States of America
My favorite is "bootylicious" haha!
lindeclark, United States of America
Born in 1952 “Oscar” a word added to the dictionary, is a statue given to actors for their excellence in acting, is a word I associate very closely too.
I was a talent agent for 10 years, a film critic for three and a movie buff my whole life.
dororose, Germany
Wow - a lot of psycho-stuff. What was going on in 1958?

Being a BEATNIK I‘m not eager for a CANCER STICK and ANTIPSYCHOTICS. Looking for BIGFOOT I‘m having a FROZEN YOGURT and HALLOUMI. Now I‘m off for a GAME SHOW, cause my GENETIC CODE looks like a LAUNDRY LIST in LINEAR REGRESSION, absolutely not MACHINE-READABLE. So MASTER CHIEF PETTY OFFICER, could I have some MELATONIN, please? There‘s a PANIC ATTACK coming soon and I‘m afraid of PARALANGUAGE. If I‘ll try PSYLOCYBIN, will that turn me into a SEX KITTEN? (Never heard that word before, and I definitely don‘t like it.) Am I not a SMART-ASS? I think my SOFTWARE needs HAIR SPRAY and TANDOORI, just to prevent a TRANSIENT ISCHEMIC ATTACK. Take care, yours, ZEITGEBER
HookedonPostcards, Canada
Thanks for sharing this! So many creative uses for this information.
I plan to use the lists for a holiday game this month. I will:
1. Print off the year list for each family member.
2. Cut up each word or phrase; put them all into an envelope.
3. Provide each family member with their envelope, a piece of paper and a pen.
4. Timer will be set for 5 minutes. Each family member will create a paragraph using as many of the words as they can. It has to make [some] sense.

1. For the one(s) who use the most words.
2. For the one who gets the most laughs.
3. For the one who uses the most words from the list in a row.
4. For any one who decides to create a poem - just because I'm partial to poetry.

If any of you decide to try this game, please PM me if --
1. You come up with a different game that you think I might like to try.
2. You have some ideas that alter or improve upon the game.
CrimsonKing, United States of America
Haha! Couple of words I like from my birth year are "wiseass" and "knackered" hehe!
MikaMinsk, Belarus
One of the word from my year is a 'snail mail'. Coincidence? I don't think so😁
1Suzanne, United Kingdom
I love the idea of a Christmas family game. I'll select a few words for each person and people have to guess who. I'm mini, mayo and Montezuma's revenge.
reiselustig, Germany
Wow - what a dicovery! Ok, I must admit, many of te words I don't know... but others of my brith year I thought would have been much later, e.g.
bird flu, veggie burger gentrify, userfriendly. Others I like from my year are alternative medicine, speed bump , page turner. And there is one word, which is the same in German and I always wondered where it originated, because for me it is so strange is ombudsperson.
I am not so creative to write a text with all these words... But I would love it, if there was such a dictionary for German as well :-)
Elschwobo, Germany
I have Rockstar and Meet and Greet!
PaiviM, Finland
In my birth year Sputnik flew in space and my father visited Sovjetunion that year and brought a Sputnik souvenir singing a Sputnik song. Because my mother tongue is not English I do not know many of the words that came to use that year. Maybe transsexual and multiculturalism and smiley face caught my eye.
sphynxlady, United States of America
love this! totally shared with all my fellow word nerds!
TanyaOtt, Germany
One of the words that first made it into the Merriam-Webster dictionary the year I was born is... coronavirus!
neleh17, Ireland
This is so interesting and fun! I chose a few words that were added in 1968 - bells and whistles, distributed, nondairy, clunky, gross-out, word processor, bank machine, plugged-in and un plugged
Cassiopheia, Germany
Oh wow, the most surpsring was INTERNET and BUNGEE JUMPING.
Robin67, Austria
I just had to laugh hard! In the band 'Doobie Brothers' I always thought that was a family name, but it actually means something. :-D

I am so naïve! Haha!

This is so interesting! Really cool!
liske, Germany
In the year I was born, the first word is adaptive cruise control. I think it's a great invention, but I thought it hadn't been around that long.
The second word was A-fib. I would have thought the word had been around for a longer time.
I was surprised by the words E-book, hyperlink, JPEG and Killer-App in 1988
MagicalIrene, China
Wow... for me I chose 'Youtuber', 'bucket list' and 'demisexual'. I thought the first two are very old words but didn't expect them to be as young as me! And I found myself pretty...demisexual.
Ruiguo, China
When l was born,Beijing Olympic was holding.But an earthquake occurred in Wenchuan.So joy and sadness are intertwined
OxalisMontana, United States of America
The GAS GUZZLER in my driveway has plush, EARTH TONE seats. 1973.
-Pauline-, United States of America
In the year I was born we transitioned from an ice box to a refrigerator, and thereafter transitioned from a radio to a television.
beesknees, United States of America
This is great and super interesting - my mail related word is "zip-code", and a word I use that I didnt even know was legit is "artsy-fartsy" - as in if someone gives you something they made you might say - "oh look at you being all artsy-fartsy"
pammykay, United States of America
I was born the same year that birthed the term rock and roll
5kjenni, United States of America
There isn't anything DUCT TAPE can't fix!
I am so STRESSED playing this VIDEO GAME!
I am going to the WEIGHT ROOM wearing my favorite YOGA PANTS.
My INKJET printer just ran out of ink!

Cheers Postcrossers!
Voldemort, Poland
BRAINIAC was first used in my year of birth... I now understand why I managed to win "Jeopardy" 😁
Luziaceleste, Brazil
Among the new words of my birth year, there is one I love: 'do-it-yourself'@ Lovely suggestion for this month.
sohanur, Bangladesh
I'm taking the word evo-devo. Which means EVOLUTIONARY DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY.
There is a Despacito Biology Parody song related to evo-devo on youtube. I love that song!
Tetsuko, Germany
wow thats a great thing. I have some really interessting words in my year... here just some - seems like my year is full of illnesses

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - bovine spongiform encephalopathy - anti-HIV - interleukin-6 - shy bladder - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor - Down (in the meaning for Down-syndrome) - patient zero - yuppie flu - SIV

but also there are some other words too...

in-line skate - palmtop - messenger bag - dad joke - emoticon - FAQ - minitower - goliath bird spider - paintball - scripting language - steampunk - snark - single-payer - thirtysomething - techno ....
panka77, Hungary
Plan B :) One of the most important words in my life :D
Flippie, Canada
Hi, the words I found are; Condo and Skinny - dip. I live in a condo and I never Skinny - dipped! ...haha..
Wynnie, United States of America
First, let me say it took quite a (disheartening) amount of time to scroll all the way to my birth year, but it paid off. A few words jumped right out at me... here are 3:
Grinch - "a grumpy person who steals joy from other people" - ok, yeah, not a role model then. But Christmas is just a brief time away, and I'm reminded that I really, REALLY need to get those cards written and sent. I grew up watching, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (spoilers - he gave it back!), and singing along with the Grinch song, and laughing at his poor little dog, Max... but I was very surprised that the word only came into play in my birth year. I was sure the Grinch was much older than me!
Lovebug - I use this as a term of endearment with my little dog, Buddy. I talk to him in my best koochie-coo voice, scratch his ears, and tell him that, "my little lovebug is the ONLY bug I like". Although I suppose butterflies and dragonflies are kind of neat - but you can have the rest. Well, of all the ironies, after college, I moved right into the part of the US where the real love-bugs are. And they are indeed bugs!. They are awful little black bugs with a red "tip", that fly around hooked together (let's not tell the kids what's going on there), and there are so many of them, that they get all over the windshield. To make it worse, they are apparently made of super-glue on the inside, because it takes all the Kings horses and all the Kings men about an hour of scrubbing as a team, to get just one of those little nasties off the windshield.
Street-smart - a word I have been able to use many times with relatives or co-workers who astound me with their "book ignorance"; you can always raise an eyebrow at them and offer a silver lining: "You might not ever make it onto Jeopardy, but at least you have street-smarts." My guess is the plural came along later, but that is how I always heard it said, leaving me wondering, "is the singular of that, 'a street smart'?" I'm gonna go look that up.
RafaelaMiaumiau, Portugal
1991 !! :
3-D Printer
Brainfreeze yes!
;) ;)
AnnJewel_Chyi, China
I didn't know in 1984 these words were first-time published:
death metal, French pedicure, FedEx, laptop, VPN, seach engine...
konfuzedwithaK, United States of America
Among my favorites: boomerang child (which I now am), crop circle, emo, f-bomb, gangsta, himbo, meta, pimped-out, unibrow
D2M2, United States of America
I'll wrap a security blanket around me on the rocket sled that requires a sci-fi solar battery to become a snow thrower or a Sea Explorer. Way out!
merryrose22, Canada
barcode...banana seat...pot sticker...South African. LOL. This was an interesting site but a lot of scrolling down to get to my year.
KateMouse, Taiwan
game changer
I like it very much!
berthakuiken, Germany
What a wonderful website.
Two words I found lovely in my year of birth:
teamug, Germany
For those that scrolled a lot: just enter birth year in the space above...

@trenker - we were born the same year it seems.

I was surprised that VideoCasette already came out in 1969 - I was only aware of this technology in my teens.
Loved: tip of the iceberg, vog (airpollution of an erupted volcano), windsurfing!,anti-consumerism (still does not work in this world), BOLLYWOOD!!!, and light pollution, which I think is still a big issue.
Really interesting.
Anasteyshan, Belarus
I want to highlight the word upcycling.
UPCYCLING is the recycling of materials and things with the creation of new functionality for them and an increase in their value. A creative approach to the "new reading" of old things. I hope soon many people will start to properly dispose of garbage and consume less plastic products.
Chia-Cheng, Taiwan
There was a very important word in my year-social networking!!
There are many words coined in the year i was born...i choose this Meme
tozorunt, United States of America
Ha ha, munchies. I didn’t get them often, didn’t like being in that state. LOL. Hated pantyhose all my life! Had many of tipping points guiding me to travel the states when young.

Apgar score, DEFCON

Other notable words: munchies, pantyhose, queen-size, Saturday night special, skateboard, tipping point
coleandjojo, United States of America
@hookedonpostcards maybe you could have them try to guess the year the words were introduced for extra points!
OanaMaira, Romania
Haha, some of my favorite words introduced in 1991 are crowd-surf, infinity pool, nanotech, granny panties, SMS, and mixtape.
cerres, Estonia
Very interesting topic!
My favorites words from that year are probably retro, scammer, cardio and drag king. Informative:D
Soffia, Russia
franhunne, Germany
Was born 1968, it is more expressions than just single words for me, it was a rather politically "interesting" year (interesting in the meaning of the old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times"), with expressions like:
"March through the institutions" - Gang durch die Institutionen
meaning that people with more progressive idea have to join the existing institutions to change them
"mündige Bürger" - mature citizens - citizens who are informed and not manipulated
"direct democracy" - self explaining today, but back then a shock that "normal citizens" could ever influence politics with a direct, binding vote - even though that was the case for centuries already in our neighboured country Switzerland.
My favourite is probably March Through the Institutions.
Langfordlibrarian, United States of America
haha! the first word in my year was ABD. True story: my husband pursued a doctorate starting in 1989 and graduated in 2002. Our family knows firsthand what ABD means!!!!!!
What a valuable tool. Thanks for sharing this.
anna_banana_87, Germany
Techno, paintball, Generation X, GIF, FAQ, food coma ... Cool! :D I was born in 1987.
IrMSt, Germany
DIY - that fits
Captain-Colin, United Kingdom
I was born in 1958, and one of the words that came into use that year is SOFTWARE. This is fascinating because I became a professional software developer in my IT career!
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