What do the words “cyberspace,” “e-mail,” and “escape key” all have in common? They were all first used in print the year I was born, which was 1982. Have you ever wondered which words are just as old as you are?If etymology interests you or you’re just a naturally curious person then take a look at the “Time Traveler” feature. It’s an addition to Merriam-Webster.com, the online dictionary.This feature can tell you a word’s “first known use,” which is the first time it appeared in print with its current definition. This information now appears underneath definitions but there’s also a special Time Traveler page.It’s really easy to use. Select any year from the drop-down menu, such as the year you graduated high school or the year America was founded. A whole list of words will pop up. Then you can click a word to read its definition or share the list on Facebook or Twitter.You can pick any year between 1500 and 2010. Before 1500, words are grouped by century, from the 12th century to the 15th century. There’s also a massive list of words that appeared in print before the 12th century.“We built Time Traveler because we ourselves could spend hours exploring this data, and we thought it would be fascinating for everyone else, too,” said Lisa Schneider, who is the Chief Digital Officer and Publisher for Merriam-Webster. “It’s especially interesting to discover a word that has been around for centuries longer than (or is much newer than!) you might expect.”To explore words’ birth years, click here or click the blue button below to try Time Traveler. There’s also a Time Traveler Quiz where you can learn about words you use every day. I learned that the word “meme” was invented by esteemed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins! Click here to try it!
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