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Lexicographers compile 'lost words' list

23rd August 2011

Lexicographers responsible for compiling the Collins Dictionary have released a list of words they believe have become 'extinct' in recent years.

By tracking the appearance of the words in newspapers, books and online, experts deemed that aerodrome and wittol should be removed from smaller dictionaries.

Aerodrome was a term commonly used to refer to a large airfield but has fallen out of use in recent decades, along with wittol – a man who tolerates his wife's infidelity.

Charabanc (a type of horse-drawn coach), drysalter (a purveyor of certain chemicals) and alienism (the study of mental illness) have all also fallen out of use, according to Dr Ruth O'Donovan, asset development manager at Collins Language Division in Glasgow.

She told the Guardian that lexicographers not only track new words – which often gain publicity when added to the dictionary – but the frequency of existing words, which are removed from smaller versions of the dictionary when their usage falls 'below a certain threshold'.

'Such words are in our largest dictionary but we've categorised them as obsolete, as although they go out of general use they are still of interest to historians so it's useful to have them in the larger dictionary,' Dr O'Donovan added.

Meanwhile, retweet, woot and jeggings were among the 400 new words added to the latest version of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, alongside cyberbullying and surveil.

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