Dictionary.com Adds LGBTQIA+ Terms Such as ‘Deadname,’ ‘Biromantic’ in Biggest Update Ever


Sep 4, 2020


On Tuesday, Dictionary.com released its biggest update ever, geared toward providing a more comprehensive understanding of words related to race, gender, and mental health. For example, it has added words such as “biromantic” — someone who is “romantically attracted to people of two specific and distinct gender identities, as both men and women” — and “deadname,” which is “the previous name of someone who has changed that name, especially the pretransition first name of a trans person.”

In total, Dictionary.com has added 650 new words and revised 11,000 existing definitions on its platform. One of the major aspects of this mega update is the introduction of increased nuance around LGBTQIA+ terms. It has removed the terms “homosexual” and “homosexuality,” in line with how these terms have come to be derogatorily used to signify sickness and pathology, and replaced them with “gay” and “gay sexual orientation,” which are more accepted today. It’s a way for us to put people first, and not practices, in our language, Dictionary.com said in a statement. In the same vein, it updated the definitions of words suffixed by “sexual,” such as bisexual or pansexual, to also include emotional attraction, apart from romantic or sexual attraction. And it has updated the definition of “ace,” from only referring to a “very skilled person” or to an ace in a deck of cards to include its use as a short form for people who are asexual on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

“Not only do these revisions help eliminate heterosexual bias in language, [but] they also help better convey the diversity and richness of—and take Pride with a capital P in—human sexual experience and identity,” Dictionary.com said. Its lexicographers have now added a separate entry for “Pride” with a capital P, to affirm and celebrate specific LGBTQIA+ communities, for whom the word has come to denote a particularly powerful and unique emotion.

“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,” added senior editor at Dictionary.com, John Kelly.

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The update also tackles race — Dictionary.com has capitalized the word “Black” to confer “due dignity to the shared identity, culture, and history of Black people”; it has added a new entry for “brownface,” defined as “imitation of a minority group member’s appearance, speech, traditional dress, etc., by a person who is not a member of that group”; and it has further defined varying identities that often get looped under the ambiguous “person of color” umbrella, such as “Afro-Latinx” and “Filipinx.” 

These changes reflect the current conversations that are happening online, in the realms of queer rights, or #BlackLivesMatter protests in the U.S. As we start to acknowledge different identities and their experiences, it becomes paramount to develop our language to better suit these needs, as it’s the only way we can articulate perspectives and oppressions that are non-normative.

We also see a need to destigmatize certain experiences, which are often described in words designed to denigrate them. For example, the update addresses mental health-related terms, replacing “commit suicide” with terms such as “die by suicide” or “end one’s life,” to remove the moralistic and criminal connotations associated with the word “commit” that often prevents us from looking at suicide in more considerate ways. The update also replaced the word “addict” with “a person addicted to” or “a habitual user of,” to “foreground the fact that people who have addictions are human beings, first and foremost.”

The world is constantly evolving, and our notions of race, gender, and health along with it. In order for us to keep up, it’s important the language we use within these concepts also evolves, not only for us to stay updated, but for us to be kinder, more understanding, and welcoming toward all.


Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news and politics in New York City, and dabbled in design and entertainment journalism. Back in the homeland, she’s interested in tackling beauty, sports, politics and human rights in her gender-focused writing, while also co-managing The Swaddle Team’s podcast, Respectfully Disagree.


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