Shaka Added To Oxford English Dictionary

by The Editors on December 15, 2016

The Oxford English Dictionary luminaries were in a surfy mood this year when adding words for their massive collection of proper English words.

Of the 1,500 words they either updated or added, some of the words they chose to highlight come from surfing. We can finally feel okay about using the following words in proper written and spoken English: break, A-frame, bomb, cross-step, barrel, frontside, turtle, and shaka.

Apparently there’s no love for the backside at the OED. For a selection of other non-surfing words that were added this year, follow the jump.

‘Brexit’ means ‘Brexit’: the Oxford English Dictionary adds a definition

15 DECEMBER 2016, Oxford, UK — Today the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announces its latest update, including more than 1500 revised and updated entries and around 1500 new senses. This confirms the OED as one of the largest and longest-running language research projects in the world.


Arguably one of the most anticipated definitions of 2016, Brexit has been added to the OED this month. It is defined as:

‘The (proposed) withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, and the political process associated with it. Sometimes used specifically with reference to the referendum held in the UK on 23rd June 2016, in which a majority of voters favoured withdrawal from the EU.’

The speed with which Brexit became widely used was impressive, fuelled by the fact it filled an empty space in our language, and the growing importance of the phenomenon it described. Foreign language newspapers used it on their front pages to report on the referendum, indicating it is now a word used globally.

Surfing terms

An abundance of surfing terms are also new to the OED. Some are recognizable, even to the non-surfer, but others are a little more specialist. Many of us would recognize the sense of break as a place in the sea where waves break, but it would probably only be the surfers themselves who know that an A-frame is a wave with a central peak which forms both left and right breaks simultaneously. Or that a new sense of bomb means a very large, powerful wave, especially one that is much larger than others in a set. Other interesting surf terms to be added include cross-step, a step or series of steps in which a surfer walking along a longboard crosses one foot over the other; the hollow cylindrical space which forms within a breaking wave between the crest, the face, and the foot, often hiding from view a surfer riding the wave is a barrel; when the surfer has their front to the wave is called frontside; and turtle: a technique used to get past a breaking wave when paddling, by rolling over on one’s back while holding on to the surfboard above the body then resuming a normal prone position on top of the surfboard once the wave has passed.

Two local words go global

Bama and shaka are two additions which have become established in localized colloquial usage over a long period of time before being more widely popularized and spreading into the broader vocabulary of English. Bama was originally used by the 1920s simply as an abbreviation for Alabama. However, it later became a slang word referring to a person from the rural American south, regarded as unsophisticated or unfashionable. Fast-forward to 2016, and Beyoncé has reclaimed the word in her album Lemonade with the lyrics: ‘My daddy Alabama/Momma Louisiana You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama’.

Shaka is used as an interjection to express positive sentiments such as affirmation, approval, and solidarity, characteristically as a greeting or valediction. It is another word that originated in a local variety of American English, in this case Hawaiian English. Shaka has also been adopted by the surfing community, giving it a new lease of life worldwide. Its second meaning is as a gesture of greeting, affirmation, or approval in which the thumb and little finger are extended outward from a closed fist.

What else is new to the OED?

get your freak on: U.S. slang 1) to engage in sexual activity, especially of an unconventional or uninhibited nature. 2) To dance, esp. in an uninhibited, wild, or exuberant fashion.

glam-ma, n: A glamorous grandmother, especially one who is relatively young or fashion-conscious.
Grexit, n: A term for the (potential) withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone monetary union.
out-strategize, v: To outmanoeuvre (an opponent, rival, etc.); to outdo in strategizing.
upstander, n: A person who speaks or acts in support of a cause, especially one who intervenes on behalf a person being attacked or bullied.
verklempt, adj. Overwhelmed by emotion.
YouTuber, n: A frequent user of the video-sharing website YouTube, especially someone who produces and appears in videos on the site.


Notes for Editors

To arrange an interview with an Oxford Dictionaries editor, to obrtain the press password to the OED, or for any further information, please contact:

(UK, Europe, and Rest of World):
Chloe Foster, Publicity Manager, Oxford Dictionaries | +44 (0)1865 353584| +44 (0)7788394243
(US and Canada)
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The OED is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over 829,000 words, senses, and compounds – past and present – from across the English-speaking world. As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from those of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings. You’ll still find these in the OED, but you’ll also find the history of individual words, and of the language – traced through over 3.3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books. View OED FAQs here.


The OED requires several independent examples of the word being used, and also evidence that the word has been in use for a reasonable amount of time. The exact time-span and number of examples may vary: for instance, one word may be included on the evidence of only a few examples, spread out over a long period of time, while another may gather momentum very quickly, resulting in a wide range of evidence in a shorter space of time. We also look for the word to reach a level of general currency where it is unselfconsciously used with the expectation of being understood: that is, we look for examples of uses of a word that are not immediately followed by an explanation of its meaning for the benefit of the reader. We have a large range of words under constant review, and as items are assessed for inclusion in the dictionary, words which have not yet accumulated enough evidence are kept on file, so that we can refer back to them if further evidence comes to light.

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