The Urban Dictionary

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At a translation agency, you never know what you’ll need to translate next – but sometimes it’s just a case of clarifying the meaning of a term! In 1999, a college freshman named Aaron Peckham decided to create an online dictionary to poke fun at more established methods of recording words. His creation was called Urban Dictionary, and since it’s humble beginnings 18 years ago, has risen to become the best place on the internet to understand the ever-changing world of modern slang.

The latest entry today (25 January, 2018) :

Taking fast food home and eating it in bed before going to sleep. Taken from reports in the Fire and the Fury that Donald Trump often goes to bed early with a cheeseburger
I was tired out, so I decided to just go by the drive thru on the way home and have a presidential dinner.
Who knew?!

While somewhat lacking in the standard definitions found in more respected dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary, Urban Dictionary has a wider collection of words used by its mostly under 25 audience than any other website. By 2014, over 7 million entries had been made on the site, with 2,000 more added daily and 72 million visitors. Most of these words are slang, often almost indecipherable to anyone but the teenagers who use the words themselves.

Thus, it offers a more currently accurate account of the English language than any other dictionary site can offer.

Of course, many people vehemently dislike Urban Dictionary, firmly believing that words made up by teenagers cannot truly be part of the English language. However, it is difficult to ignore the fact that many of the words found only in Urban Dictionary are commonplace in teenagers’ daily vocabulary. Urban Dictionary has also been used in court cases, such as a UK high court judge who couldn’t comprehend the language used in songs in a case involving two rappers.

Many of the entries found on the website are pure nonsense, filled with spelling errors, explicit language and sexual innuendo. Almost any slang word can be found on the site, due to it being extremely easy to enter a new word or phrase. Over 20,000 volunteer editors keep the site from falling into racist or sexist abuse, but most words added are accepted into Urban Dictionary’s gigantic archives.

Whether you’re a fan of Urban Dictionary or not, it is impossible to ignore the effect the website and others like it have had on modern language. The English language is constantly evolving and changing. Although most entries found on the website have fallen or will fall out of use within a matter of a few months or years, many have found a place in the wider English language. Some have even been enrolled into established, conventional dictionaries. Because of this, Urban Dictionary can claim to have played a hugely important role in the progression of language in the internet age.

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  1. Matheus Chaud

    Urban Dictionary is incredibly useful and fills a huge gap left by traditional dictionaries. For those who translate TV series, for example, which is full of slang and modern expressions, it’s an extremely valuable resource. It’s definitely one of my favorite online resources.

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