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‘Unfriend’ named ‘Word of the Year’ by New Oxford American Dictionary

The term ‘unfriend’, defined as a verb that means to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook, has been recognised as the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 Word of the Year. ‘Unfriend’ was selected from a shortlist of new words including hashtag, netbook, paywall, sexting and freemium.

The term ‘unfriend’, defined as a verb that means to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook, has been recognised as the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 Word of the Year. ‘Unfriend’ was selected from a shortlist of new words including hashtag, netbook, paywall, sexting and freemium.

According to Oxford University Press, its lexicographers track how the vocabulary of the English language is changing from year to year. Every year, the New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year is debated and chosen, with the selection made to reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance and use.

“Unfriend has real lex-appeal,” Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for the Oxford’s US dictionary programme, has said. “Most ‘un-‘ prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar ‘un-‘ verbs (uncap, unpack), but ‘unfriend’ is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of ‘friend’ that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!).”

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