The Oxford English Dictionary has 8 words with first citations from 2001. In that year, a Chinese fighter jet bumps a U. S. E-3 surveillance aircraft, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the U. S. plane to land in Hainan, China where the crew was detained for ten days; Islamic terrorists fly two hijacked passenger aircraft into the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan, one into the Pentagon in Washington, D. C., and a fourth crashing into a field in Pennsylvania; the U. S. invades Afghanistan to hunt down the terrorists and depose the Taliban government that supported them; the energy-trading firm Enron files for bankruptcy; Peter Jackson’s film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring hits the theaters; Wikipedia is launched; and the iPod makes its debut.
The words of 2001:
201(k), n. After the collapse of the stock market following the bursting of the dotcom bubble, many American investors found their 401(k) retirement plans had become 201(k) plans. The 401(k) tax-deferred retirement account is named for the section of the U. S. Internal Revenue Service code that authorizes it. 201(k) is, of course, a jocular indication that the plans lost a lot of money.
apatheist, n. There are theists who believe in God, atheists who don’t believe in God, and apatheists who don’t care one way or the other.
belligerati, n. 2001 saw the coinage of this word referring to pro-war journalists.
BitTorrent, n. Sometimes the music industry is its own worst enemy. By shutting down the Napster peer-to-peer distribution system for electronic files instead of working with it, they paved the way for the decentralized BitTorrent, which couldn’t be controlled or negotiated with.
botox party, n. The new millennium saw the concept behind Tupperware parties taken to a new level.
chip and PIN, n. A neat innovation that really hasn’t hit the United States, chip and PIN is a system for electronic financial transactions using a credit or ATM card with an embedded microchip and a personal identification number. The system is in wide use in the U. K. and Canada (and probably elsewhere).
crunked, past part. The slang term meaning “excited, stirred up” makes its debut.
dirty bomb, n. The term dirty bomb has been in use since the mid-1950s in the sense of a nuclear weapon that produces a lot of radioactive fallout, but in 1993 it acquired a new sense of a conventional bomb packed with radioactive material that is dispersed with the explosion. Dirty bombs came into the public consciousness following the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
ground zero, n. The term ground zero has been used as the designation for the target of a nuclear weapon since 1946, but in the hours following the attacks on 11 September 2001 it acquired a new sense, that of the site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.
Homeland Security, n. The words homeland and security have been used in simple collocations for decades, but in 2001 the phrase Homeland Security came to the fore as the designation for the new U. S. federal department charged with internal defense.
homicide bomber, n. Right-wing news outlets in the United States, particularly Fox News, attempted to get this synonym for suicide bomber into the lexicon. Despite its continued use by them, homicide bomber has never really caught on, probably because all bombers are homicidal in intent and the key factor that distinguishes suicide bombers is that they are willing to kill themselves.
iPod, n. Apple’s version of the MP3 music player hit the market in 2001.
jump the shark, c.phr. The phrase referring to the moment when the quality and popularity of a television show reaches its peak was coined in 1997. The phrase is a reference to the episode of the series Happy Days where the character Fonzie jumps a shark tank on water skis.
misunderestimate, v. Discussion of Bushisms became a cottage industry among the liberal press and bloggers in 2001. The verb was uttered by George W. Bush in November 2000.
-sauce, comb. form This slang combining form starts appearing in 2001. It’s an intensifier, used in such words and phrases as awesomesauce and lamesauce.
snowflake, n. The standard meaning of snowflake dates to the early eighteenth century, but in 2001 the word acquired an additional slang sense of a child born as the result of a in utero transplantation of a frozen embryo that would otherwise have been destroyed.
the terrorists will have won, c. phr. This catchphrase appeared within days of the September 11th attacks.
unbanking, n. Taking a tip from the unmarketing crowd, in 2001 in order to avoid the negative stereotype that their practices created among the general public, banks started pretending they weren’t banks.
weapons-grade, adj. This adjective has been applied to fissile nuclear material since 1961, but in 2001 weapons-grade began to be applied to salsa.
white box, n. A white box is an unbranded personal computer, usually custom-built by a system integrator.
These words are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, based on that dictionary’s earliest citation for that word. I’ve also taken words from the Among the New Words column in the journal American Speech; and in many cases these words have been antedated by the OED. 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 1997-2013, by David Wilton