Variety

‘Zyzzyva’ is now the Oxford dictionary’s last word

Press Trust of India London | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 27, 2017

dictionary

The last alphabetic entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was zythum, a kind of malt beer brewed in ancient Egypt.

‘Zyzzyva’ - a tropical beetle - has become the new last word in the Oxford English Dictionary with the latest quarterly update which added over 1,200 new words, phrases and senses.

Until now, the last alphabetic entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was zythum, a kind of malt beer brewed in ancient Egypt.

The title now belongs to Zyzzyva, the name of a genus of tropical weevils native to South America and typically found on or near palm trees. The name of the genus was coined by the entomologist Thomas Lincoln Casey in 1922.

“Some sources suggest it is an onomatopoeic reference to the noise made by the weevil, possibly inspired by a former genus of leafhoppers, Zyzza, and perhaps chosen deliberately as an alphabetical curiosity,” she said. Oxford’s 2016 word of the year ‘post-truth’ is also entered in the OED update.

Defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,’ it evidences an emerging use of post- prefix forming words denoting that a specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant.

Earlier words using post- in this way include postnational and post-racial. The update also included a new sense of the noun ‘thing’. The word has been part of the English lexicon for more than a thousand years, but the OED now defines a new meaning which has only arisen in the past two decades.

The new sense is defined as ‘a genuine or established phenomenon or practice,’ and is often used in questions conveying surprise or incredulity, such as ‘is that even a thing?’

The OED publishes four updates a year. The next update will be added to the dictionary in September 2017.

Published on June 27, 2017
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor