As the Black Lives Matter movement has picked up momentum around the nation in recent months, companies like Dictionary.com are paying more attention to language use and redefining words that reflect culture, identity and race.
“The work of a dictionary is more than just adding new words. It’s an ongoing effort to ensure that how we define words reflects changes in language — and life,” said John Kelly, senior editor at Dictionary.com.
As a mark of respect and recognition, Dictionary.com announced in a press release Tuesday that it has updated its language to include capitalizing the word “Black.” The word also is now a separate entry, as it refers to a person, breaking with dictionary conventions to group together words that share the same origin.
“We broke that rule because it has real world consequences,” Kelly told ABC News. “These have real effects on people’s social identities, these meanings are personal.”
Other major organizations have recently had similar thinking.
Over the summer, The Associated Press and The New York Times each announced their style changes to capitalize the word Black when referring to race or culture. Meanwhile, Black media outlets such as Essence and Ebony have been leading the way on this change for years.
Kelly explained that the word “Black” does not just refer to the color of one’s skin but also African ancestry, noting that “it is important to not lump the term into one category.”
Other words added to Dictionary.com regarding race and ethnicity include Afro-Latina, Afro-Latino, Afro-Latinx, Filipina, Filipinx, Pinay, Pinoy and Pinxy. The racially offensive terms “brownface” and “whitesplain” were also added.
“As our understanding of race continues to evolve, ‘brownface’ warranted an entry that was distinct from blackface,” Kelly told ABC News.
Along the identity lines, LGBTQIA language was revised to better reflect the complexity and richness of the experiences of those identities and help eliminate heterosexual bias as the unmarked, default experience, according to the press release. Related terms with revised or new definitions also include bisexual, pansexual and Pride, which is now a separate entry and capitalized in relevant references.
Overall, Dictionary.com updated more than 15,000 entries across its website in the company’s largest new words release to date, including 650 new entries as well as thousands of new and revised definitions, etymologies and pronunciations. The company said the changes reflect its “point of view that language entries have consequences and go beyond being simply an academic exercise.”