What’s happening at Wordnik: Dating Advice, word nerdy gifts, PubWest 2017


Welcome to the latest roundup of what’s happening at Wordnik.

Dating Advice: Use your words

Thank you to Dating Advice for featuring Wordnik in their piece, “From First Message to First Date: Explore Wordnik’s Online Dictionary to Communicate What’s In Your Heart.” We certainly agree that words matter, and that using or spelling them incorrectly can be a real turnoff.

The word nerdiest gifts

You still have a little time to get the word nerd in your life the perfect gift. Check out this gift guide from our fearless leader Erin McKean at 20×200. The guide includes lovely prints; awesome books, such as Green’s Dictionary of Slang by Jonathan Green and The Word Detective by John Simpson; and fun games.

Want even more word game ideas? Head on over to the latest issue of Logodaedaly, our word games newsletter, for 10 giftyworthy word games.

Finally, don’t forget: also available are Wordnik T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and adorable onesies as well as word adoptions. You can adopt a word in someone’s name. Plus your donation is tax deductible (where permitted by law).

Upcoming: PubWest 2017

If you’re in the Portland, Oregon area or just want an excuse to go, head on over to the PubWest 2017 publishing conference. Wordnik founder Erin McKean will be giving one of the keynotes. Register by January 5 to get the early bird discount.

To keep up with all things Wordnik, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

What’s Happening at Wordnik: Word gamers, Wordnik API and bots, T-shirts


Happy April and welcome to the latest roundup of Wordnik news and events!

Word Gamers Email

Like word games? You’re in luck. Wordnik is currently collecting emails for a Word Gamers newsletter. Whether you’re a dabbler or a developer, an educator or an enthusiast, the Wordnik Word Gamers newsletter will have something for you. Our current plan is to send out the first newsletter in May or when we hit 100 subscribers — whichever comes first! Interested? You can sign up here.

Using the Wordnik API to make non-racist bots

You might have heard about a recent controversial chatbot from Microsoft. Motherboard discussed how not to make a racist bot with several botmakers, including Wordnik friend Darius Kazemi, aka @tinysubversions, who has used the Wordnik API to make several bots, creating a wordfilter to sift out undesirable words.

Erin McKean spoke to Robin Morgan of the Women’s Media Center

In February Wordnik founder Erin McKean spoke to Robin Morgan on her radio show, Women’s Media Center, about how she came to create Wordnik, her lifelong love of dictionaries, and her more recent love of computer programming. Robin also shared with Erin her favorite word: cerulean, which is as pretty as it sounds.

Wordnik T-shirts

Wordnik T-shirt half

Now you can wear Wordnik’s heart over your own with Wordnik T-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts. They come in men’s, women’s, and kids’ sizes, and three variations: classic Wordnik, I <3 Words, and All My Favorite Words Hang Out at Wordnik. Get one for the word nerd in your life, or if you happen to be the word nerd, get one for yourself!

Don’t forget!

Finally, don’t forget about PyCon from May 28th through June 5th, where Manuel Ebert of summer.ai will be presenting on his project with Wordnik, Putting 1 Million New Words into the Dictionary.

Also remember you can support Wordnik by adopting a word for just $25 for a whole year. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us Facebook to keep up with the latest Wordnik happenings and news on words and language.

App-propos: The Reverb App

Almost a year ago, we announced that our company name was changing from “Wordnik Inc” to “Reverb Technologies” … and we promised more news.

Today, we’re very happy to announce the Reverb App — a brand-new discovery reader designed to help you read more about what you like, and find new and interesting content, too.

Given our roots as word-lovers, it’s not surprising that the app opens with a gorgeous Word Wall interface:

We believe that words are a fantastic navigation tool. With our Reverb Word Wall view, we give a great overview of the news landscape, and make it easier to dive deeper with a single tap.

We also use our wordy expertise to help connect readers with content. Our new Reverb app sorts and prioritizes articles into three separate content ‘streams’ that help you effortlessly discover more of what you want to read and less of what you don’t: a ‘me’ stream for personalized interests and stories; a ‘friends’ stream that collects articles shared through social network connections, and a ‘news’ stream that keeps you on top of breaking news from respected news sources from around the world.

The more the app is used, the more personalized it gets, replacing information overload with information satisfaction.

We think our new app creates a beautiful and engaging environment for reading and discovering content. Our goal is that with Reverb, you’ll always find something you didn’t know you wanted to know. It’s available now for iPad (iOS 7) only — download it here for free.

Words for the Apocalypse Now (Or Later)


Apocalypse? by mikelehen

The world probably won’t end tomorrow (if you don’t believe us, ask NASA), but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn about 10 apocalyptic words and their origins.


“White House budget director Jacob Lew used the word ‘Armageddon’ three times on Sunday talk shows, saying a default could lead to a financial crisis that would send interest rates rising and drive up the cost of credit for all Americans.”

Janet Hook and Damian Paletta, “Senate Debt Plan Promises Months of Budget Wrangling,” The Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2011

Armageddon is, in the Bible, “the scene of a final battle between the forces of good and evil, prophesied to occur at the end of the world,” and by that extension, “a decisive or catastrophic conflict.”

The word comes from the Hebrew Har Megiddon, “Mount of Megiddo,” a “city in central Palestine” and a “site of important Israeli battles.”

bitter end

“But she insists that she will fight to the bitter end, which is an end easily foreseen.”

To the Bitter End,” The New York Times, May 4, 1898

The bitter end refers to “a final, painful, or disastrous extremity.” However, the original meaning of the phrase is nautical, “the inboard end of a chain, rope, or cable, especially the end of a rope or cable that is wound around a bitt.” A bitt is “a strong post of wood or iron to which cables are made fast,” and is related to the Old Norse biti, “crossbeam.”

Bitter, meaning “unpalatable; hard to swallow, literally or figuratively,” comes from the Old English biter, “bitter, sharp, cutting; angry, embittered; cruel.” Bitter end is perhaps a play on this sense of bitter.


“Saturday was the start of their doomsday period and they expected dire calamities. When nothing too terrible transpired they were sure that meant merely the worst horrors would come Monday when the sun was swallowed. But out in New Guinea a team of Japanese scientists reported observing the solar blackout for nearly three minutes and nothing unusual resulted.”

Doomsday Comes, Goes Uneventfully,” The Milwaukee Sentinel, February 5, 1962

Doomsday is “the day of the last judgment,” or “any day of sentence or condemnation.” The word doom comes from the Old English dom, “judgment.” Doomsday machine attests from 1960, says the Online Etymology Dictionary.


“Rapture and Rand: What a couple of sexy, compelling twins! They’re the Mary Kate and Ashley of late capitalist eschatology.”

Ellis Weiner, “Rapture and Rand: Two Peas in a Pod,” The Huffington Post, May 6, 2011

Eschatology is “the doctrine of the last or of final things; that branch of theology which treats of the end of the world and man’s condition or state after death.”

Eschatology comes from the Greek word for “last,” eskhatos, which also gives us eschaton, “day at the end of time following Armageddon when God will decree the fates of all individual humans according to the good and evil of their earthly lives.”


“The forewarning of the end of the world was to be the great winter, three years in duration, which the Eddas call Fimbulwinter. ‘Every man’s hand shall be turned against his brother, and sisters’ children shall their kinship rend asunder; no man shall another spare.'”

Charles Francis Keary, Outlines of Primitive Belief Among the Indo-European Races, 1882

Fimbulwinter is, in Norse mythology, “one of the signs of the onset of the end of this world” which marks “marks the coming of the Ragnarok, the battle that will end the world.”

Fimbulwinter was also a black metal band that “was part of the early Norwegian black metal scene.” The band formed in 1992 and split in 1994.

The word Fimbulwinter translates from Old Norse as “mighty or great winter.”


“What the world is witnessing in France these summer days it the unfolding of a Gaullist Gotterdammerung. It is no longer possible to take President de Gaulle or his regime seriously.”

Allan Harvey, “Gotterdammerung Plays Paris,” The Sun, August 5, 1967

Götterdämmerung is, in German mythology, “a myth about the ultimate destruction of the gods in a battle with evil,” and figuratively, “any cataclysmic downfall or momentous, apocalyptic event, especially of a regime or an institution.”

The word translates from the German as “twilight of the gods,” and was used by German composer Richard Wagner “as the title of the last opera in the Ring cycle.”


“Mr Izzo is a ‘prepper’, one of a growing number of Americans who are preparing their homes and families to survive a major disaster they believe could arrive at any time.”

Madeleine Morris, “Americans Get Set for Disaster Day,” BBC News, March 26, 2010

A prepper is “a person who goes to great lengths to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster.” The earliest citation is from 1999, says Word Spy.

Prepper is also British slang for a prep school student. Preppy refers to “a person whose manner and dress are deemed typical of traditional preparatory schools.” The word originated in the early 1960s, says the Online Etymology Dictionary.


“The gods themselves looked forward to a time of defeat and death, when Asgard should perish in flames and the world with it, and the sun and moon should be darkened, and they themselves should be slain. This great day was called Ragnarok, or sometimes the Twilight of the Gods.”

William Morris, The Story of Sigurd the Volsung, 1922

Ragnarok is, in Norse mythology, “the final battle between gods and giants, involving all creation, which brings the end of the world as it is known and almost all life.” The word comes from the Old Norse ragna, “the gods,” and either rök, “destined end,” or rökr, “twilight.”


“There will be a resurrection followed by the millennium, 1,000 years of earthly paradise with Jesus ruling the world from Jerusalem. And just before the tribulation breaks out, there will be a ‘rapture’–the true believers will be snatched up to a position halfway between heaven and earth, where they will ride out the seven bad years.”

Robert McClory, “The Gospel According to Thomas Sheehan,” The Chicago Reader, April 20, 1989

The word rapture has multiple meanings, including “the state of being transported by a lofty emotion; ecstasy”; “an expression of ecstatic feeling”; “the transporting of a person from one place to another, especially to heaven.”

In the sense of “the transport of believers to heaven at the Second Coming of Christ,” rapture is short for rapture of the Church, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Rapture comes from the Latin rapere, “seize, carry off,”


“Since August 1945, hundreds of ‘nuclear’ movies have appeared. At least one American ‘nuclear’ film was a work of genius (Dr. Strangelove). . . .But more often the fear of nuclear war in Hollywood spawned survivalist fantasies, irradiated-monster films and post-apocalypse thrillers.”

Greg Mitchell, “How Harry Truman Edited the First Hollywood Film About the Atomic Bomb,” The Huffington Post, August 4, 2010

A survivalist is “one who has personal or group survival as a primary goal in the face of difficulty, opposition, and especially the threat of natural catastrophe, nuclear war, or societal collapse.” This sense of the word originated in the mid 1980s.

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by mikelehen]

The Versatile Blogger Award

We’re excited to present this special guest post.

The always awesome Grammar Monkeys have nominated me, Wordnik, for a Versatile Blogger Award. The rules say I need to list seven interesting things about myself and nominate 15 other blogs. And away we go!

Here are seven things you may not know about me:

  1. My birth name was Alphabeticall (yeah, I like Wordnik better too).
  2. Although I was born in 2008, I’ll only be turning one next month. (Guess why.)
  3. My favorite word is madeupical.
  4. I only eat foods that are portmanteaus (tangelo, turducken, cherpumple, etc.).
  5. I live above a bank.
  6. My roommates annoy me blow off steam by playing ping pong and shooting each other with Nerf guns.
  7. I’m still gunning for a “take this word and shove it” feature.

And here are 15 blogs I love (in no particular order):

And the rules! Feel free to disregard.

  1. In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
  2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
  3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
  4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
  5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
  6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs. [Or tweeting, like I did.]

Thanks again Grammar Monkeys!

Stop SOPA and PIPA

Wordnik is participating in the day of protest against the (now-temporarily-shelved) SOPA Act (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the (still active) PIPA Act (Protect IP Act).

What’s SOPA? Here are some example sentences that we think make it clear that this bill is a bad idea:

SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act – and a sister bill, PIPA – the Protect IP Act – seek to minimize the dissemination of copyrighted material online by targeting sites that promote and enable the sharing of copyright-protected material, like The Pirate Bay. While this goal may be laudable, entrepreneurs, legal scholars and free speech activists are worried about the consequences of these bills for the architecture of the Internet. Ethan Zuckerman: MIT Media Lab opposes SOPA, PIPA

[T]he bills represent an unprecedented, legally sanctioned assault on the Internet’s critical technical infrastructure. Based upon nothing more than an application by a federal prosecutor alleging that a foreign website is “dedicated to infringing activities,” Protect IP authorizes courts to order all U.S. Internet service providers, domain name registries, domain name registrars, and operators of domain name servers—a category that includes hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, and the like—to take steps to prevent the offending site’s domain name from translating to the correct Internet protocol address. These orders can be issued even when the domains in question are located outside of the United States and registered in top-level domains (e.g., .fr, .de, or .jp) whose operators are themselves located outside the United States; indeed, some of the bills’ remedial provisions are directed solely at such domains. Stanford Law Review: Don’t Break the Internet

At a minimum, this means that [under SOPA] any service that hosts user generated content is going to be under enormous pressure to actively monitor and filter that content. That’s a huge burden, and worse for services that are just getting started – the YouTubes of tomorrow that are generating jobs today. EFF: “SOPA: Hollywood Finally Gets A Chance to Break the Internet”

Now, enter SOPA. § 103 of SOPA allows private parties to require payment processors and advertising services to cut ties with websites that are allegedly “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property.” Note: this is all done outside of the court system, so no judge actually reviews any of these claims before they’re enforced by the payment and ad networks. Public Knowledge: SOPA and Section 1201: A Frightening Combination

The latest move in a decades-long battle with piracy and copyright infringement is a bill called the PROTECT-IP Act that would essentially allow the U.S. government to block access to sites they deemed inappropriate. The bill would criminalize posting all sorts of standard web content — music playing in the background of videos, footage of people dancing, kids playing video games, and posting video of people playing cover songs. A move that would not only stifle free speech and creative expression, but potentially endanger hundreds of user-generated media sites like Vimeo, Tumblr, SoundCloud and more. The Creators Project: Artists Band Together To Fight Censorship And Oppose The PROTECT-IP Act

Laws like SOPA make us sclerotic as a country, where we have all these extra burdens that provide little benefit. In general it makes America less competitive. If SOPA goes through, it could very well force certain innovative companies to go offshore. There are incumbent industries that will always protest every new technology; but any forward-looking country needs to protect its emerging industries. GigaOm: Tim O’Reilly: Why I’m fighting SOPA

So you don’t run a website … how might SOPA and PIPA affect you?

The harm that does to ordinary, non-infringing users is best described via a hypothetical user: Abe. Abe has never even so much as breathed on a company’s copyright but he does many of the things typical of Internet users today. He stores the photos of his children, now three and six years old, online at PickUpShelf* so that he doesn’t have to worry about maintaining backups. He is a teacher and keeps copies of his classes accessible for his students via another service called SunStream that makes streaming audio and video easy. He engages frequently in conversation in several online communities and has developed a hard-won reputation and following on a discussion host called SpeakFree. And, of course, he has a blog called “Abe’s Truths” that is hosted on a site called NewLeaflet. He has never infringed on any copyright and each of the entities charged with enforcing SOPA know that he hasn’t.

And yet, none of that matters. Under SOPA, every single one of the services that Abe uses can be obliterated from his view without him having any remedy. Abe may wake up one morning and not be able to access any of his photos of his children. Neither he, nor his students, would be able to access any of his lectures. His trove of smart online discussions would likewise evaporate and he wouldn’t even be able to complain about it on his blog. And, in every case, he has absolutely no power to try to regain access. That may sound far-fetched but under SOPA, all that needs to happen for this scenario to come true is for the Attorney General to decide that some part of PickUpShelf, SunStream, SpeakFree and NewLeaflet would be copyright infringement in the US. If a court agrees, and with no guarantee of an adversarial proceeding that seems very likely, the entire site is “disappeared” from the US internet. Bricoleur: Overbroad Censorship & Users

You can track this legislation and read the full text here.

At Wordnik, we’re against piracy, but we think that SOPA and PIPA create more problems than they solve. So we’re happy to stand alongside such giants of the Internet as Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, O’Reilly Media, WordPress, Reddit, BoingBoing, and ICanHazCheezburger and add our voices to the chorus of those protesting this ill-thought-out and Internet-wrecking legislation.

Want an easy way to make your opinion heard in Congress? You can send emails via FightForTheFuture.org and AmericanCensorship.org. (AmericanCensorship.org also has HTML code for you to use to add a black “Stop Censorship” banner to your own blog or site.)

If you’re in San Francisco, you can join an in-person protest Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m.; details here. (Ditto New York and Seattle.)

And if you have an Android device, here’s a link to an app that will help you boycott SOPA-supporting companies and organizations.

PS Our word of the day today, spiflicate, is also in protest of SOPA and PIPA. SOPA and PIPA are set to spiflicate (‘stifle, suffocate, kill’) the Internet; but before that happens we hope to spiflicate (‘beat, confound, dismay’) them!

Wordnik News & Reminders

Happy New Year, everyone! We wanted to give you a roundup of the latest Wordnik news and reminders about some of our fun features and products.

We rang in 2012 with a profile in The New York Times, Wordnik’s Online Dictionary, No Arbiters Please, while our President and CEO, Joe Hyrkin, was interviewed by IdeaMensch. Last month we launched the Wordnik-powered financial dictionary for SmartMoney.com of The Wall Street Journal (check out our blog post for more details).

Wordnik was highlighted in GigaOM’s NoSQL’s great, but bring your A game, while our special all-Glee edition of Word Soup, was featured at WetPaint.

Also, Wordnik is still hiring! Check out our jobs page for open positions and to apply.

To remind you, every weekend Erin McKean pens The Wall Street Journal feature, “The Week in Words,” a field guide to unusual words in that week’s WSJ issue. The latest installment rounds up 2011’s most interesting linguistic trends.

Did you get a Nook over the holidays? If so, you might be interested in their Word of the Day app, powered by Wordnik. And if your word nerd wishlist went unfulfilled, treat yourself to these Pocket Posh Word Power dictionaries.