First Words Revealed in African American Dictionary

Entries include 'bussin' and 'grill'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2023 10:40 AM CDT
First Words Revealed in African American Dictionary
Stock photo.   (Getty/bee32)

A new dictionary is in the works, one that focuses solely on words with African American origins. The Oxford Dictionary of African American English—a collaboration between Harvard University and Oxford University Press, per NPR—plans to publish its first 1,000 words in 2025. However, the New York Times has gotten a peek at 10 of its first entries, which include "bussin," "grill," and "cakewalk." Just how do words make the cut? The New Yorker provided a look at the exhaustive process in March, one that involves poring over old books and etymologies, as well as sources distinctly more modern. "It's almost certainly the first dictionary whose editors regularly consult Black Twitter," the piece notes. People can also submit suggestions at the dictionary's website. Below is a sampling of some of those first words, along with definitions:

  • bussin: 1. Especially describing food: tasty, delicious. Also more generally: impressive, excellent. 2. Describing a party, event, etc.: busy, crowded, lively.
  • grill: A removable or permanent dental overlay, typically made of silver, gold, or another metal and often inset with gemstones, which is worn as jewelry.
  • cakewalk: 1. A contest in which Black people would perform a stylized walk in pairs, typically judged by a plantation owner. The winner would receive some type of cake. 2. Something that is considered easily done, as in This job is a cakewalk.

See the full list of 10. (More African Americans stories.)

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