11 Brilliant Words That Wouldn’t Be In The Dictionary Without Pop Stars


Miley Cyrus certainly didn’t invent twerking or the word ‘twerk’ – a portmanteau of ‘twist’ and ‘jerk’ – but her appropriation of the provocative dance move helped the word into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. Here are ten more words popularised by popstars that knocked on the door of the dictionary and said, “can I come in, please?”


A word coined by Canadian rapper Drake took on a life of its own in a way that surely neither he nor anyone else could have expected: ‘yolo’ – an acronym of ‘you only live once’ – entered the Oxford English Dictionary earlier this year after becoming widely used. You can also say ‘yolt’, but only if you’re James Bond.


Beyoncé not only bestrides popular culture like a colossus, she’s also partly responsible for putting the word ‘bootylicious’ in the dictionary in the early 90’s. A compound of the slang ‘booty’ and the popular suffix ‘licious’ (from delicious), it means ‘sexually attractive’ according to the OED.



Kanye West

‘That shit cray,’ said Kanye West on ‘Niggas in Paris’, and so cray was that shit that it needed to be reiterated several more times on the track by Kayne just to really drive the message home. This popular Californian abbreviation of ‘crazy’ entered the dictionary this year. See also: ‘cray cray’, which presumably is twice as cray as cray. See also: annoying.



It probably won’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to work out where the word ‘Beatlemania’ came from or the fact it emerged in the mid-60s. It has gone onto influence all other manias including Wrestlemania, which I’m sure you’ll agree is the most important of the manias.


Another portmanteau, ‘amazeballs’ was helped on its way into the dictionary this year after Charlatans singer Tim Burgess jokingly suggested ‘Totes Amazeballs’ as a name for a cereal on Twitter. Things got even more, er, cereal when Kellogg’s got in touch and made up a mock box of the stuff with a cartoon Tim on the box. It went totes viral.



Will Smith has been influencing youth culture since the 90s, and no more so than when he helped ‘jiggy’ into the dictionary via ‘Gettin’ Jiggy With It’ in ‘97. Tenuously, it was jiggy jiggy that brought Willow Smith into the world, and she recently recorded a fantastic cover of King Krule’s ‘Easy Easy’, proving that Will is still having a defining if indirect influence on the yoot.




The 80s might have been the decade of greed, but it was the 90s when the term ‘bling’ was coined, and ‘bling-bling’ if you were feeling flash. The word appeared on hip hop records as far back as 1993, though it was a young Lil Wayne’s turn on the B.G. (Baby Gangsta) record ‘Bling Bling’ that took it overground in ‘99, and the OED eventually caught up in 2003.



Dispute rages about the origin of ‘phat’, hip hop slang with a ‘ph’ spelling meaning ‘excellent’. It can be traced back to 1968, but it didn’t start hitting dictionaries until 2003. Who took it overground? The smart money is on godfather of hip hop Russell Simmons, who set up the Def Jam clothing label Phat Farm in ‘92, and rappers like Ludacris and Big Pun helped it along.



The Beastie Boys are surprise kings of authenticated slang, with a hand in giving no less than nine words a leg up into the dictionary. ‘Ill’ as in ‘good’ is one, but more significantly the Beasties are probable progenitors of the word ‘mullet’, which first appeared in a tongue-in-cheek article in their 1995 magazine, Grand Royal. It entered the dictionary soon after.

‘Wardrobe malfunction’

‘wardrobe malfunction’

Until the Super Bowl in 2004, accidentally showing the world an errant nipple was called either ‘indecent exposure’, or ‘nip slip’ if you work for the gutter press. That all changed when Janet Jackson inadvertently flashed and cause a hullabaloo at the live televised US sporting event of the year, and the expression ‘wardrobe malfunction’ passed into the everyday vernacular.