May 21, 2022

The December 2020 Oxford English Dictionary Update Features 500+ Newly Researched and Edited Entries and Senses Including Structural Racism, Lob Ball, and Oversharer

From the OED:

After the unprecedented year documented in the Oxford Languages coronavirus updates and Words of the Year, we end 2020 with a more traditional OED quarterly release, which includes over 500 newly researched and edited entries and senses, alongside a similar number of fully revised and updated entries, drawn from across the history of English and its global varieties.

Among the oldest additions in this update is a sense of the verb follow, meaning specifically to pursue a person covertly, with the aim of watching what they are doing or keeping track of their movements; it was first recorded in the Old English West Saxon version of Luke’s Gospel in the early eleventh century, but managed to give the compilers of earlier editions of OED the slip.

This update travels through space as well as time, with additions from World English including shoe bite, an Indian English term for a sore area, blister, or abrasion caused by ill-fitting footwear, first recorded in the 1870s; black cake, a dark, rich, moist Caribbean cake typically flavoured with rum and served at Christmas or on other special occasions; Canadian politics gives us lob ball, a term for an easy question, especially one intended to make the person to whom it is addressed seem knowledgeable or competent (otherwise known as a softball question); and Philippine English contributes traffic, meaning held up or congested with slow-moving vehicles, an adjectiving of a noun (possibly after a Tagalog model) first recorded in 1997.


Also added this quarter is structural racism: discrimination or unequal treatment on the basis of membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, arising from systems, structures, or expectations that have become established within society or an institution.

Learn More, Read the Complete Blog Post

Direct to Complete List of December 2020 New Words

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.