The Oxford English Dictionary has 382 words with first citations from 1966. In that year, adults could ralph after drinking too much kir and Stolichnaya, while teeny-boppers who were too young for keggers had to settle for Shirley Temples; druggies were having mind-blowing freak-outs on meth and Quaaludes; Mace and MIRVs represented advances in both low and high ends of weapons technology; you could pay for your upscale timeshare with your Master Charge card; yada yada.
Events of 1966:
- January: Coups occur in the Central African Republic, Upper Volta, and Nigeria; Ken Kesey conducts an “acid test” at the Fillmore in San Francisco; Indira Gandhi is elected prime minister of India; rocket scientist Sergei Korolev dies.
- February: Actor Buster Keaton, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, and Admiral Chester Nimitz die.
- March: France withdraws from military participation in NATO; John Lennon declares that The Beatles are “more popular than Jesus now;” Neil Armstrong and David Scott aboard Gemini-8 become the first to dock with another spacecraft in orbit.
- April: The United States observes a (mostly) uniform Daylight Savings Time for the first time; U. S. troop levels in Vietnam top 250,000; writer Evelyn Waugh dies.
- May: Bob Dylan releases the album Blonde on Blonde, and the Beach Boys release Pet Sounds; Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks out against the Vietnam War.
- June: In Miranda v. Arizona the U. S. Supreme Court rules that criminal suspects must be read their rights before questioning; the sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show and the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows make their television debuts; the National Organization of Women (NOW) is founded; artist Jean Arp dies.
- July: Actor Montgomery Clift dies.
- August: Tower-sniper Charles Whitman kills thirteen and wounds thirty-one at the University of Texas; Mao Zedong begins the Cultural Revolution; The Doors release their first album; The Beatles perform their last scheduled concert; comedian Lenny Bruce dies.
- September: Star Trek premieres on NBC-TV; Nazis Albert Speer and Baldur von Schirach are released from Spandau Prison, leaving Rudolf Hess as the sole inmate at the Berlin prison; the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center opens; Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger dies.
- October: Bobby Seale and Huey Newton found the Black Panther Party; the United States makes LSD illegal; the Montreal Metro opens; Grace Slick joins Jefferson Airplane; cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden dies.
- November: Ronald Reagan is elected governor of California; John Lennon meets Yoko Ono; James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin aboard Gemini-12 complete the final mission of the Gemini program; Truman Capote hosts the first Black and White Ball in New York City.
- December: The television special How the Grinch Stole Christmas airs for the first time; the first Kwanzaa celebrations are held; filmmaker Walt Disney dies.
The words of 1966:
Art Deco, n. The height of the Art Deco period was the 1920s and 30s, but the style wasn’t called that back then; it was style moderne. The name Art Deco doesn’t appear until the mid-60s, a clipping of the French art décoratif.
ARVN, n. The acronym is for the Army of the Republic of (South) Vietnam. [Languagehat has antedated this one to 1964.]
Astroturf, n. and v. The name for the artificial grass used in sports stadiums has its debut in 1966. It’s named after the Houston Astrodome, which had opened the previous year, and was the first major venue to use the product. The Astrodome originally had real grass, but after the semi-transparent panels in the dome’s ceiling were painted over to allow ballplayers to see fly balls, the grass died, and Astroturf was installed in time for baseball’s opening day in 1966.
autowind, n. The camera feature gets a name.
AWACS, n. Another military acronym, this one is Airborne Warning and Control System. In 1966 it was just on the drawing board. It would take a decade for AWACS aircraft to actually enter service.
bogart, v. Humphrey Bogart inspired two distinct senses of verb. The first, an African-American slang coinage, is “to bully, intimidate,” and appears in 1966. Two years later the rock group Fraternity of Man would tell us not to “bogart that joint, my friend, pass it over to me,” after Bogey’s penchant for keeping a cigarette in his mouth.
-bot, comb. form In the mid-60s, engineers began to use -bot to denote various types of robots, although there is a lone 1959 use of Mobot, for mobile robot, to denote a specific device in use at the Hughes Aircraft Company.
cherry-pick, v. The verb meaning to select only the best examples appears in 1966. But the noun cherry-picker, referring to one who does such a selection dates back to 1940 in U. S. railroad slang, where it originally referred to a switchman, who made his selections based on the red lights on the switch.
Chicom, n. and adj. I would have pegged this one to date to the Korean War, but evidently it doesn’t predate the 1960s. The OED has 1966, but there is a Life magazine citation of the term, meaning “Chinese Communist,” from 1962.
chlamydia, n. The bacterium genus got its name in 1966, although there is a 1945 proposal to use the name to denote a larger grouping.
cryonics, n. In 1966 the Cryonics Society of New York advertised that “immortality is within your grasp.”
Dolby, n. Ray Dolby founded his Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965, ten years later moving it to San Francisco. The lab’s first commercial noise reduction system went on the market in 1966.
druggie, n. This is a rather obvious one that I’m surprised isn’t recorded earlier.
Esalen, n. Michael Murphy and Dick Price founded their Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California to pioneer alternative “human potentialities” in 1962. Four years later the institute started to receive national press coverage. It’s named for the Esselen Native-American people who were once indigenous to the region.
Fatah, n. The Palestinian political-military organization was founded by Yasir Arafat in 1957. By 1966 it was getting coverage in the Western press.
folkie, n. The times they were a-changing, but ironically popular music was reaching back to revive folk tunes. [Languagehat has antedated this one to 1965.]
Foosball, n. The Anglicized name of the German table-top soccer game Fußball was filed as a trademark in the United States in 1966.
freak-out, n. This term for a bad LSD trip appears in 1966, although the verb to freak, meaning “to trip on LSD” dates to a year earlier, and appears as the phrasal to freak out by 1966 as well.
grinch, n. Dr. Seuss’s 1957 book How the Grinch Stole Christmas was adapted into a television cartoon in 1966, and that year grinch came into use meaning “spoilsport, unpleasant person.”
gross-out, n. and adj. (also gross out, v.) Slang lexicographers record this term for something disgusting or repellent in 1966.
hadron, n. The class of sub-atomic particles gets a name.
innie, n. Another slang term that gets written down in 1966. An innie is a concave navel. The corresponding outie isn’t recorded until 1972.
Jacuzzi, n. The Jacuzzi family had been making aircraft parts and hydraulic pumps in Berkeley, California since 1915, but in 1955 they had started marketing submersible bathtub pumps for hydrotherapy. By 1966, jacuzzi was in use as a generic term for a whirlpool bath.
kegger, n. The university slang term for a beer party is first heard on the campus of the University of South Dakota in this year. There is an older, unrelated New Zealand use of kegger that dates to 1911, referring to someone who smuggles beer into dry regions of the country.
kir, n. Felix Kir, the mayor of Dijon, lent his name to this mix of white wine and crème de cassis. Kir Royale, champagne and crème de cassis, dates from 1974.
kung-fu, n. The name of the martial art takes a bow.
Mace, n.5 The full name of this product is Chemical Mace, an irritant used by law enforcement and for self-defense that went on the market in 1966. It’s named after the medieval weapon.
Master Charge, n. The Master Charge credit card appeared in 1966. In 1980 the name was changed to MasterCard. In 1965, Bank of America’s BankAmericard, a credit card that had existed since 1958, expanded outside of California. And BankAmericard became Visa in 1975.
medevac, n. This clipping of medical evacuation is a military term that made its way into public consciousness because of the war in Vietnam.
Medicaid, n. The U. S. system for providing federal funds for medical care of the indigent went into effect.
meth, n.2 The clipping of methamphetamine appears.
mind-blowing, adj. The adjective mind-blowing appears in Timothy Leary’s 1966 The Politics of Ecstasy.
mind-fuck, n. In 1966 a mind-fuck was a sexual fantasy. By 1971 it had acquired the sense of an act of psychological manipulation. Green’s Dictionary of Slang antedates the sexual fantasy sense to 1964. Green’s also gives a date of 1960 for a sense of “one who manipulates others,” and cites the supplement to Wentworth and Flexner’s Dictionary of American Slang, but the term does not appear in my copy of that dictionary.
Miranda, n. In 1966, in Miranda v. Arizona, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that police had to inform people taken into custody of their right to remain silent during questioning and to have legal counsel. The verb to Mirandize appears by 1971.
MIRV, n. This acronym stands for multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle, and refers to one of several nuclear warheads on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
mondo, n.3 and adj.1 The 1961 Italian documentary film Mondo Cane, “dog’s world,” featured a variety of bizarre behaviors and customs, becoming something of a cult classic. As a result, English speakers began prefixing various words with mondo to denote salaciousness or questionable taste, first in film titles and then more generally.
multitasking, n. and adj. Another computing term makes its appearance. Multitasking has since expanded beyond computers to refer to the performance of multiple, simultaneous tasks in general.
naff, adj. The British slang adjective, meaning “worthless, lacking in style, faulty,” makes its debut. Green’s Dictionary of Slang has a citation from BBC Radio in 1965.
narc, n. Another word that appears in Timothy Leary’s 1966 book. A slightly older form is narco, which as a name for a police officer investigating illegal narcotics appears in 1960. More general use of narco to refer to narcotics dates to the mid-50s.
nastygram, n. This one appears in military slang. The military sense is that of a reprimand. Nastygram eventually broke out into the wider lexicon, and as it did generalized in meaning too, referring to any angry or insulting missive. It is, of course, modeled on telegram.
Quaalude, n. Like many trade names, the origin of Quaalude, a drug which hit the market in 1966, is not known for sure. Companies rarely keep records of why they name their products the way they do; they’re too busy making money to worry about the concerns of etymologists decades down the road. But Quaalude is probably some combination of methaqualone; the -aa- from Maalox, another product by William H Rorer, Inc. which marketed the drug; and the phrase quiet interlude, a reference to the soothing effects of the barbiturate. The evidence for that last is particularly sketchy, and the explanation may have been invented after the fact.
ralph, v. The echoic verb meaning “to vomit” is retched up by university slang in 1966. Green’s Dictionary of Slang gives the same source, but dates it to 1964. Pinning slang down is notoriously difficult.
ROM, n.3 Another computer term, this time an acronym for read-only memory.
Shirley Temple, n. By the time this non-alcoholic drink started being served, its namesake was thirty-eight years old and presumably already on the hard stuff.
Stolichnaya, n. The name of the Russian vodka appears in a 1966 Len Deighton spy novel. But Stolichnaya was trademarked and went on sale in the United States in 1969.
studly, adj. More university slang. This one is such an obvious formation I wouldn’t be surprised if it were antedated.
teeny-bopper, n. The OED records this one from 1966, appearing in Australia’s The Telegraph, but Green’s Dictionary of Slang has teeny-bopper appearing half a world away in 1965 in the pages of the Harvard Crimson.
timeshare, n. Another computer term. By the 1970s it had expanded into other aspects of life, notably vacation homes.
upscale, adj. The marketing and demographic term makes its appearance.
VAT, n.2 Value added taxes had been around for decades, but evidently no one thought to abbreviate the term until the mid-60s.
wheelie, n. The motorcycle/bicycle stunt gets a name.
whiteboard, n. The chalk blackboards begin to be replaced in 1966.
yada yada, int. and n. This one was around long before Seinfeld. Plus various forms, like yaddega, imitative of speech, but without the sense of “obvious details that don’t need to be related” had been around since at least 1947 when Oscar Hammerstein penned a song titled Yatata Yatata Yatata.
zilch, n. (and adj.) The slang term arises ex nihilo in 1966.
zit, n. Teen culture continues its inexorable rise throughout the 1960s.
These words are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, based on that dictionary’s earliest citation for that word. Of course, that does not necessarily mean the word was coined in the given year; it only means that is the earliest date the big dictionary has for the word. In many cases, these words can and have been antedated. My selection is not scientific or systematic; it is based on what I think is interesting; sometimes they are words that appear earlier or later than I would have thought; others have a particular historical affiliation for that year or represent some historical trend; and others are just odd words. I’m avoiding back-formations and variations on existing words. Again, be warned that the coining of a word does not necessarily coincide with the invention of a concept. Often, there will be older words that express the same sense.
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton