This year we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ETpedia series and it’s 5 years since the publication of ETpedia Vocabulary. So, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some of the new words and shifts in language that we’ve seen over the past decade. I’ve picked out ten words that I think exemplify some of the trends.




1 socials (plural noun) social media

Although social media was already fairly well-established back in 2014, there’s no doubt that it’s grown hugely and come to dominate our lives far more in the past 10 years. Back in 2014, relatively new words might have included friend/unfriend (as verbs), likes (as a noun), tweet and post. Since then, we’ve added influencers and TikTokers, we constantly scroll through our various feeds, and more of us casually bandy around terms like engagement and reach.


The trend for the word “influencer” on the English Trends corpus 2014-2024



2 #hashtag (symbol/noun)

Hashtags started out on social media as a way of allowing users to search for topics, but they’ve evolved in a range of ways. Hashtags are still used to help people find trending topics, to highlight campaigns, such as #MeToo, #BLM and #LockHimUp, or to spread gossip, memes and crazes. But they’re increasingly used as a meta-comment on the content of a post, #sorrynotsorry #firstworldproblems #winning, and even cross over into spoken language.

Teaching tip: remember to explore with learners how to pronounce expressions written using symbols; £1.50, €5, -10°C,, etc.


3 net zero (compound noun) having no emissions of greenhouse gases (or balancing the amount produced with the amount removed from the atmosphere)

Again, not a completely new term, but one that really gained traction following the Paris climate agreement in 2015. The language we use to talk about the climate crisis has seen a real gear change in the past decade. Other trending collocations with ‘zero’ include zero carbon, zero emissions and zero waste.

Teaching tip: brainstorm collocations around a key word like zero or climate in class. You can check ideas by typing the key word into the search box of an online learner’s dictionary to see what suggestions come up. See ETpedia Vocabulary Unit 22 for more tips about teaching collocations and Unit 21 for activities with compound nouns.


4 EV (noun, abbreviation for) electric vehicle

Sticking with the green theme, vocabulary to describe more sustainable ways of living are also on the rise, with EVs and air-source heat pumps now commonplace. Although, as ever, it’s important to look out for green-washing or its inverse, green-hushing (companies keeping quiet about, often well-intentioned, green policies for fear of standing out and being criticized by regulators or activists for not doing enough).


5 Covid 19 (noun)

Obviously, we can’t avoid mentioning the pandemic, which not only had a huge impact on our lives, but also on our language. It prompted lots of new words such as Covid itself and new compounds like social distancing. It also boosted the frequency of previously niche terms like coronavirus, quarantine, isolation and lockdown. Much of which, thankfully, peaked and then declined along with the virus itself.


The trend for the word “lockdown” in the English Trends corpus 2014-2024



6 in-person (adjective) used to describe a meeting or event that is not online

One hangover from the pandemic which has had a more lasting effect on our lives and language was the shift to far more online activities. We’ve continued to see online learning and WFH (working from home) or hybrid working. But as we’ve settled back into a new normal, we’ve had to find new terms, or retronyms, to describe the offline world. We now need to specify if a meeting or class or event will be online or in-person/F2F (face-to-face).

Teaching tip: challenge students to think of other retronyms. Get them started by writing up one half of these pairs; landline (not mobile phone), dairy milk (not oat milk or soya milk), acoustic guitar (not electric), hard copy (not digital). Can they come up with their own creative ideas? 


7 identify as (verb intrans) to describe and see yourself as part of a particular group

In the social sphere, identity has become an increasingly discussed topic and the verb “identify” has undergone an interesting shift from a transitive verb followed by a direct object to a new intransitive usage. It’s predominantly used to talk about gender identity (identify as a woman/man, female/male, trans(gender), non-binary, enby, gender-fluid) and sexual orientation (identify as LGBT(QIA)+, queer, bisexual, lesbian). But it can also be used about racial identity (identify as Black, Hispanic, British Asian), politics (identify as Democrat, liberal, feminist) and religious identity (identify as (a) Christian, Catholic, Muslim, etc).


8 cancel (verb) to stop supporting someone because they’ve said or done something that offends you

Along with increased awareness of social issues comes cancel culture. Of course, people have always been called out for unacceptable views and behaviours, but social media perhaps makes it easier for people to find themselves cancelled over a misjudged remark. And with this comes the culture wars and a backlash against those labelled as woke, meaning (too) socially conscious. It’s a term that started off as positive and has increasingly become an insult, in much the same way that in the 1990s the idea of political correctness was condemned by those on the right as “political correctness gone mad”.

Teaching tip: many English words have more than one meaning (they’re polysemous) and sometimes, like here, gain new meanings over time. Remember not to overload learners with several meanings of a new word together. Instead, add them incrementally over time. Point out a new meaning of a familiar word when it crops up so learners can make the mental link and understand the differences.


9 message sb (verb trans) to send someone a message using any digital medium

In everyday life, technology changes the language we use in a whole host of ways that we barely even notice. Just as we’d all got used to texting our friends, the options for digital communication exploded with the option to send messages via social media platforms – I’ll DM you – and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, which has quickly become a verb – I’ll WhatsApp you – a process known as verbing. With so many options, lots of people are settling for the more neutral “I’ll message you”.

Teaching tip: encourage learners to notice words that can be both nouns and verbs. Point out brand names that have become verbs, like WhatsApp, Uber and Instagram. See ETpedia Vocabulary Unit 19 for more tips and activities focusing on part of speech.


10 GenAI (noun) generative artificial intelligence

Finally, no discussion in 2024 would be complete with a mention of AI or more specifically GenAI. With the launch of ChatGPT at the end of 2022, and the other OpenAI platforms that followed, AI shifted from the preserve of computer experts to something we can all try out. With it, on the one hand, have come fears of deep fakes and hallucinating, but at the same time, we’re all trying to figure out the best way to write prompts and prompt engineering has become a thing.


ETpedia Vocabulary

ETpedia Vocabulary, by Fiona Mauchline, Julie Moore and Stacey H. Hughes, is a one-stop resource for teaching English language vocabulary. It’s full of 500 practical ideas, inspiration, tips, and classroom activities. Order your copy here.