Posted on 13 April 2021

Why don't we say 'oneteen' and 'twoteen'?

One of the reasons numbers are so useful is that they’re predictable. The difference between 100 and 101 is the same as the difference between 101 and 102. The words we use for numbers are usually predictable too – twenty-three comes after twenty-two, and thirteen comes after… twelve? Eleven and twelve stick out like sore thumbs in our number system, but why? The word eleven comes from the Old English endleofan, which comes from Proto-Germanic *ainalif. This word is a compound of the Proto-Germanic *ainaz meaning ‘one’ and *lif meaning ‘left over’ (i.e., after counting to ten), giving us the meaning 10 + 1. Twelve follows that same pattern, coming from Proto-Germanic *twalif from *twa ‘two’ and *lif, giving us 10 + 2. Eleven and twelve are derived from these two words in most Germanic languages (like ellefu in Icelandic and twaalf in Dutch), and then switch to a different pattern. Interestingly enough, in Lithuanian (which is not a Germanic language but rather a Baltic language), numbers 11 to 19 are all formed using the ‘left over’ system, with trylika for ‘thirteen’, keturiolika for ‘fourteen’, and so on. This system probably came from Germanic some 1200 years ago, and has stood the test of time. Confirming that eleven and twelve do mean the numbers after 10 is easy, but the reason the pattern of 1 and 2 left over doesn’t continue for the next seven numbers is still a mystery. A popular hypothesis is that at one point the Germanic spoken number system only went as far as ten, so anything over that was either ‘more’, or counted in a different way. For now, though, we’ll just have to live with the fact that we say ‘eleven’ instead of ‘oneteen’. (Note: the * in front of Proto-Germanic words indicates that they are reconstructed words. Languages with no recorded history are reconstructed via a process of comparing their descendent languages, finding similarities, and using known facts about language change over time.)  
Posted on 4 March 2021

Word for Word #38 Word of the Decade

In this episode of Word for Word, we are joined by Tiger Webb from the ABC to chat about the inaugural Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade. Find out which words have had staying power and which have fallen out of use.  Join us as we explore our language: the ways we use it, the ways we abuse it, and the ways we ultimately change it.  You can also explore the 'additional links' below to discover what new words and definitions have been on our editor's minds in recent months.    Subscribe now on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Spotify or your favourite podcast app to get the latest episode delivered direct to your inbox. Words & Definitions
  • burkini
  • cancel culture
  • captain's call
  • covidiot
  • doomscrolling
  • fake news
  • First World problem
  • fracking
  • framily
  • halal snack pack
  • infovore
  • Karen
  • mansplain
  • Me Too
  • milkshake duck
  • onesie
  • phantom vibration syndrome
  • robodebt
  • share plate
  • single-use
Additional links Word of the Decade shortlist Word of the Year (2006 - current) Suggest a Word   Acknowledgements Word for Word is produced by Macmillan Audio Australia for Macquarie Dictionary and Pan Macmillan Australia.  Music used in this episode is by Broke For Free, available from the Free Music Archive and used by permission of the artist. Find more music by Broke for Free including The Gold Lining; and If. Our logo is by Amy Sherington. All sound effects and clips are public domain, royalty-free, or used by permission. If you like Word for Word, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts! It only takes a minute and it helps other people discover the show.
Posted on 2 March 2021

Six new words being considered for the Macquarie Dictionary

Welcome to March. Summer is slipping away. Soon it will just be a memory of sunburn on your skin after a long day at the beach. If you dread short days and chilly weather, console yourself with these six new words.  Ah, the sizzle of bacon on the frying pan. If you love bacon you might describe yourself as a baconeer: a bacon aficionado. Maybe you take your plate of bacon to your grandmillenial style living room. That is, a style of home decorating by millennials that is inspired by their grandparents decorating style.  As far as jobs go, bloodbiker sound like an interesting career choice. Not quite as cyberpunk as it sounds, but still as impressive, a bloodbiker is a motorcycle rider who transports blood between hospitals.  Let me e-troduce you to my friend. To e-troduce is to introduce two people who haven't met over email. Colourism isn't quite so friendly but is discrimination against a person due to their colourblindness.  Our final new word is kangaroo word. We thought this was cute and clever. A kangaroo word is a word that contains all the letters of one of its synonyms (known as a 'joey word') For example, masculine contains all the letters for 'male.' Let us know if you have any other suggestions. We are always happy to hear new words, no matter how big or small a usage they may have. Be sure to vote for some of these when we post them on our Instagram stories. See other words suggested to the Macquarie Dictionary here.  
Posted on 4 February 2021

The Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade winner is...

After a truly bumper year for new words, and with the ticking over of a new decade, the Macquarie team decided that the time was perfect for thinking about a Word of the Decade. Taking the winners of Word of the Year for the past ten years, we asked all of Australia to vote for the words which resonated most as the first official Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade.  After a week of voting from the shortlist, we would like to announce fake news as the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade!   After a record-breaking number of votes, fake news beat out mansplain by the thinnest of margins, with First World problem finishing a close third. The Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade: fake news The Committee’s Choice for 2016, fake news is Macquarie’s Word of the Decade. While we think of fake news as a coinage of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, it was around before then. However, it became emblematic of that campaign and the four years that followed it. It became part of our lives so quickly and was so overwhelming that school courses had to be developed to teach children strategies for detecting fake news. Since 2016, fake news has gained a second definition in the Macquarie, as a term used to refer to information that is viewed as being opposed or detrimental to someone’s own position – whether it is factual or not. Words are powerful and the ease with which we see this term being thrown around to instantly rob something of its credibility can be very damaging.  It looks like it’s a term that’s here to stay. Runner-up: mansplain Right up until the close of voting, mansplain was jostling with fake news for the top gong. It was the Committee’s Choice in 2014, and was very contentious at the time. Regarded as sexist by many men, it was applauded by women as a simple description of a phenomenon long suffered by females, and it’s obviously still resonating. The word is a clever coinage, one of a number of humorous constructions such as mancation, manterrupt and, of course, manspread, another neat word to describe something far from neat. Of course there are many who do not find these remotely clever or humorous, and so the controversy lives on. Runner-up: First World problem First World problem was the People's Choice vote in the 2012 Word of the Year. This has proved to be a much sounder choice than the Committee’s winner that year – phantom vibration syndrome (what?).  Like mansplain, First World problem succinctly sums up a sprawling concept, and makes the surrounding conversation easier and clearer. It’s often used humorously, but, even so, carries an acknowledgement of those far less fortunate. The fact that it scored one of the highest numbers of votes for Word of the Decade indicates that the term and the concept are still relevant. THE BOTTOM LINE They were the top three choices for Word of the Decade. So which were at the other end – the least popular words? share plate Voted in as the People’s Choice in 2014, share plate came a very definite last in the ballot for Word of the Decade. Perhaps the thought of such a thing in the time of COVID sounded such loud alarms and warnings that voters were scared off. phantom vibration syndrome While we still experience the phenomenon of feeling our phones vibrating in our pockets or bags when they aren’t, this name for it really never took off. The Committee chose it as the winner in 2012, but it does seem a little cumbersome. In retrospect, the runner-up crowdfunding would have been a better bet. framily People’s Choice 2017. This one could have been a star – a portmanteau which very neatly describes that group of friends who are so close they could be family. But, while it showed promise early on, it basically failed to launch.
Posted on 28 July 2020

Selected new words from award-winning author Kim Scott

Each new edition of the Macquarie Dictionary features a foreword written by an esteemed Australian writer. For the Eighth Edition, we were honoured to welcome Kim Scott, author Taboo and the Miles Franklin Award winning That Deadman Dance. The words below represent a selection of those that stood out for Kim, which in turn represent just a fraction of the 3500 new entries included in the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition. Kim’s foreword focuses on some of the Indigenous words included in the Eighth Edition. Kim notes that many of these words would once have been labelled simply as 'Aboriginal' but have since been updated with more understanding of their place within Indigenous culture and language groups. Take for example Ngangkari, from the Pitjantjatjara language, one of many Indigenous words included in the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition.  ngangkari noun an Indigenous practitioner of bush medicine; healer. Kim Scott’s other word selections are often humorous or food related. Each of the six words below reflects changes to the way Australian English is used by the public. To read the rest, order your copy of the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition and read the foreword for yourself.  hair doughnut noun a doughnut-shaped sponge or similar material used as the support for a doughnut bun or similar updo. rat tamer noun Colloquial a psychologist or psychiatrist. sadfishing noun Colloquial the practice adopted by some people, especially on social media, of exaggerating claims about their emotional problems to generate sympathy. schnitty noun Colloquial a schnitzel, especially a chicken schnitzel. stepmonster noun Colloquial (humorous) (sometimes derogatory) a stepmother. zoodle noun a spiralised strand of zucchini, sometimes used as a substitute for pasta.
Posted on 8 October 2019

A quick look at the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia

The Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia, Second Edition is a unique tool for exploring and understanding the lives and cultures of Australia's First Peoples. Combining the magic of maps with the latest data from the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Atlas allows us to explore a visual history of Indigenous Australia.  About the contributors This second edition of the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia is a collabroative publication of the Australian National University, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Macquarie Dictionary. General Editors Bill Arthur and Frances Morphy have been researching Indigenous affairs and working closely with Indigenous communities for several decades. In 2001 they began working on the first edition of the atlas, which took out the award of Overall Winner in the 2006 Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing (EEPA). In 2017, they began working on this second edition of the Atlas. Across both editions, there have been over 40 contributors who have researched, written and mapped the content in the Atlas under the general editorship of Bill and Frances. One of the primary aims for this second edition was to increase the presence of Indigenous people contributing to the project. These contributors are drawn from a wide variety of places and professions - from academia, the arts world, Indigenous organisations and the public service. A full list of chapter contributors is available here. About the cover art The cover art, titled Kungkarrangkalpa Tjurkurpa, is a collaborative painting made by Anawari Inpiti Mitchell, Angilyiya Tjapitji Mitchell, Lalla West, Jennifer Nginyaka Mitchell, Eileen Tjayanka Woods, Lesley Laidlaw and Robert Woods at the Papulankutja Artists group in the Northern Territory. The Seven Sisters Songline refers to the Pleiades constellation. It travels from the west to the east across the far western and central deserts. The sisters are pursued by a man, Yurla in the west and Wati Nyiru further east, who is a shapeshifter with transformative powers. He becomes particularly besotted with one of the sisters and pursues them endlessly in order to possess them. Today, this saga is visible in the Orion constellation and the Pleiades star cluster as a constant reminder of the consequences of attempting to possess something through wrongful means. Cover Art: "Kungkarrangkalpa Tjurkurpa", 2015, a collaborative painting made by Anawari Inpiti Mitchell, Angilyiya Tjapitji Mitchell, Lalla West, Jennifer Nginyaka Mitchell, Eileen Tjayanka Woods, Lesley Laidlaw and Robert Woods  About the maps There are several types of maps in the atlas. Among those featured are thematic maps which indicate the occurrence of phenomena across parts of the country, or an event or feature at particular locations and chloropleth maps which show the distribution of socio-economic data. Also featured are choropleth maps, maps with proportional symbols, column maps, as well as graphs, charts and illustrations. More information is available within the atlas itself. Earlier attempts to map Indigenous people at the national level include Norman Tinsdale's iconic map 'Tribal boundaries in Aboriginal Australia', based on research that had been carried out between 1930 and 1974. This map is discussed in detail within the book, but it was "significant in the genesis of the atlas." The version of the map used in the Atlas is an adaptation of Tindale's map. It includes "Indigenous group boundaries existing at the time of first European settlement in Australia, as far as they could be determined. It is not intended to represent contemporary relationships to land." Earlier examples of national mapping tended to deal with just single subjects. While acknowledging and drawing on them, this atlas surveys a comprehensive range of cultural, social and economic traits in a large set of national maps. Find out more The Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia is available in hardback and as a fixed-layout ebook. This ebook is available as part of Apple's Volume Purchase program which allows educational institutions to purchase copies in volume and distribute to students and teachers for use in the classroom and at home. There is also a comprehensive Teacher's Guide available for free download.
Word of the Day
Posted on 17 April 2021


A plant, Trollius europaeus, of Europe, having pale yellow globelike flowers.