second gentleman

‘Second Gentleman’ Gets Added to the Dictionary

Last week “second gentleman” was added as a small but significant addition to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Defined as "the husband or male partner of a vice president or second in command of a country or jurisdiction.", the first known use of the phrase was only in 1976!

On April 29, 2020 more than 535 new words and meanings were added to the dictionary helping millions of people understand and use language better.

Each year a team decides what becomes a new and official “word” and adds over 1000 new such expressions.

We will skip right over any new COVID vocabulary – here we focus on facts and information related to civic engagement and how it all works and makes sense. Much has to do with how we speak, text, email and write and think about civic engagement, what it looks like, and how language is changing and adapting.

Who lives at Number One Observation Circle?

In concert with a new family’s arrival at Number One Observatory Circle (the official residence of the vice president of the United States), the term Second Gentleman has finally met Merriam-Webster’s criteria for dictionary entry. Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, Douglas Craig Emhoff, is the first Second Gentleman the United States has ever had. (Various states have and have had Second Gentlemen in the past.) The term is not new, but it is finally common enough to have met the dictionary’s entry criteria and was added in the category of “Words Looking To The Future”.

Words from Politics and the Justice System and Identity

New words are often grouped into categories to indicate where most of the social, technological, political, or other development is happening.

Decarceration: release from imprisonment also: the practice or policy of reducing the number of people subject to imprisonment.

Prison industrial complex : the profit-driven relationship between the government, the private companies that build, manage, supply, and service prisons, and related groups (such as prison industry unions and lobbyists) regarded as the cause of increased incarceration rates especially of poor people and minorities and often for nonviolent crimes.

BIPOC (abbreviation) : Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color

Slow-walk: to delay or prevent the progress of (something) by acting in a deliberately slow manner.

New Words from Technology

Microtarget: to direct tailored advertisements, political messages, etc., at (people) based on detailed information about them (such as what they buy, watch, or respond to on a website).

Deepfake: an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said.

Truthiness – a New Word and Category

Truthiness: a seemingly truthful quality not supported by facts or evidence.

Only time will tell if terms like “cancel culture”, “Qanon” or “so 2020” will make it into the official list or words and the hallowed halls of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

At a time when truths of various kinds are under siege, and facts and news are put into constant question, English speakers will probably find it useful to have a special word for the kind of unproven and unprovable utterances that don’t measure up to the standards of evidence and research that are required for consensus and understanding. This could help us all keep truth as a word that matters.

Sources: Merriam-Webster /

Share this post

GoVoteMiami Logo

Subscribe & Don't miss out

Stay in touch and be an informed voter.
We’ll remind you of upcoming elections and deadlines.

Skip to content