Ubériser, Adulescence: The new must-know French words

The new words for the 2020 edition reveal a number of new social and cultural trends

Two weeks before the release of the 2020 edition of classic French dictionary Le Petit Larousse, 150 new words and expressions have been leaked, revealing a host of recent societal trends.

Bernard Cerquiglini, a linguist who attended the presentation ahead of the 2020 edition, said: “What is a new word? It is a word that we think will live on, which is not the effect of ‘fashion’, which is used in oral and written language."

Notable topic areas for new words for 2020 include climate change, pollution and eco-friendly materials; changing media habits; changing eating habits; and the “gig economy”.

Many come from other languages, especially English, or even other French regional dialects, such as Breton.

Mr Cerquiglini said: “A language that does not borrow [from others] is a dead language.”

Notable words in the new edition include:

Pollution and climate

  • Dédiésélisation: A group of actions aiming to reduce the number of diesel vehicles on the road.
  • Bioplastique: Biodegradable plastic
  • Zone morte: A “dead zone” in the planet’s oceans, where marine life struggles to survive due to a lack of oxygen, usually caused by pollution

Media and technology

  • Divulgâcher: To reveal prematurely or “spoil”, e.g. the plot of a new TV show, or “spoiler”. A mix between the words “divulge” and “gâcher” - to spoil
  • Ubériser: To make an existing business model obsolete, as some claim the US ride-sharing app Uber - part of the “gig/sharing economy” - has done to old-fashioned taxi businesses
  • Licorne: A new definition for the word “unicorn”, meaning a tech startup that has been valued at more than US $1 billion
  • Darknet: An internet network accessible only to those who have the correct browser and technology knowledge, to spread encrypted data. Often associated with criminal activity.
  • Deep-learning: Technology based on networks of artificial neurons and intelligence

Social trends

  • Adulescence: A mix of “adult” and “adolescence”, referring to the generational phenomenon of young adults continue to behave or live like “typical” adolescents
  • Antispécisme: Often used by vegan activists, this is the state of denying that there is a hierarchy between animals, e.g. humans eating animal meat.
  • Bore-out: The state of professional exhaustion caused by a lack of work in the workplace, from the word "boring"
  • Sorteur: Someone who likes going out to party regularly, as in "going-outer"

Regional additions

  • Klouker: A Breton word meaning to gorge on food
  • Dagoberts: A Belgian word for sandwich
  • Gonfle: A Provençal word that sounds like the French “blow up/inflate” but means “full, satisfied”
  • Taxieur: An Algerian word for a taxi driver
  • Emportiérage: A Quebec word for the act of obstructing a cyclist accidentally by opening your car door into their path

The dictionary also features 28,000 “proper nouns and names”, including place names and those of well-known figures.

This year, new high-profile names to take their place include Didier Deschamps, the coach of the French football world champion team; the actress Cécile de France; singer Étienne Daho; chef Marc Veyrat; and the Iraqi Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nadia Murad.

While it is common for many new words to enter the dictionary every year, experts say that it is very rare for words to ever come out, despite changing social trends.

Carine Girac-Marinier, who oversees the dictionary and encyclopedia department at Larousse, said: “Very few words disappear. 90% of the words that were in the dictionary in 1871 are still there.”

The 2020 edition will contain more than 63,000 words, whereas the 1871 edition had around 35,000. Redesigns of the edition take place every 10-15 years, with the most recent design update taking place in 2012.

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