Words First Used the Year You Were Born (1971-2021)
Words are powerful and intriguing things. They shape communication between people by spurring on the creation of new ideas, spreading information, or building interpersonal connections. Different words or phrases hold a different meaning for each person.
In fact, because languages are always expanding and changing, there can be no true or official count of how many words there are. This is especially true for words that come from other tongues but are established through use, context, and frequency in English.
Every year, Merriam-Webster, the leading American publisher of reference books, adds hundreds of new words to the official dictionary. While there’s no correlation between a person and a word born in the same year, a dictionary is a lot like a history book! Each set of new words added is a historical indication of what mattered to society and culture at the time. Those new words can range from technical to playful, but they still hold significance to the history of language.
In a two part series, we’ve gathered a list of words that first came into use in the year you were born, based on Merriam-Webster and other accredited documentations. Spanning seven generations, see how words changed (or didn’t) from as early as the 1920s to present day 2021.
This particular list features mid Generation X to present day Generation Alpha, from the years 1971 to 2021. Keep in mind that these words are based off a list provided by Merriam-Webster’s information and focuses on when a word was first used in print or a new definition was added. Important events that occurred in this time span include:
- Watergate Scandal
- PATCO Strike
- The Monica Lewinsky Affair
- September 11 Attacks
- Coronavirus Pandemic
To gain some context into the generations, below is a brief explanation of where their names came from!
Generation X: Born 1965-1980
Because their birth rate was lower than the Baby Boomers of the previous generation, Generation X is also known as “Baby Busters”. They’re characterized by reactionism, rebellion, self-reliance, and an overall mistrust of institutions and authority. Notable events of their time include the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first personal computer, and a hard emphasis on education.
Generation Y: Born 1981-1996
The famous Millennial generation is coined because they became adults at the turn of the millennium. Those in this generation are known for having personal experience with 9/11, bringing the rise of the internet, and dealing with financial struggles due to the Great Recession.
Generation Z: Born 1997-2012
Technology plays a large role for those born in this time period. Known as iGen or Gen Z-ers, they’re more racially and ethnically diverse, are better educated on non-heteronormative identities. Social media, the climate crisis, mass shooting violence, among other sociopolitical pressures, make up this generation’s reputation. While they might be the most depressed generation, they’re also the ones most likely to engage in social activism.
Generation Alpha: Born 2013-2025
The newest generation on the block, Generation Alpha was coined by social researcher Mark McCrindle. He wanted to mark a “new start” and theorizes that this generation will have more diverse family dynamics, higher racial diversity, and higher economic inequality than previous generations.
If you were born before 1971 or just want a glance at history, check out part one for words first used between the years 1921 and 1970.