Newest Life Science Additions to the Dictionary

Need help explaining CRISPR, epigenome, or rock snot? The Merriam-Webster dictionary has you covered.

By | February 8, 2017

PIXABAY, PDPICSAmong the hundreds of words added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this year, more than a dozen are related to genetics, life sciences, and microbiology. Some of the highlights include the terms microRNA, epigenomics, didymo, and gene editing. 

The CRISPR entry notes both its original function, as an immune defense in bacteria and archaea, and its recent adoption as a gene editing tool. The latter part of the definition raised eyebrows for giving a nod to CRISPR pioneers Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, though the patent trial over who invented the technique, involving them, Feng Zhang, and others, is still pending. “We don’t think the good folks at Merriam-Webster have an inside line to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board,” STAT News noted, “but we will note that Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier get a nod in the CRISPR definition—yet there’s no mention of MIT’s Feng Zhang. Burn.”

Microbiome also made its dictionary debut this year, despite its first known use—according to Merriam-Webster—in 1952. Even older, pareidolia, which also appears in the dictionary for the first time this year, has been around since Andrew Johnson’s administration. The term means “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.”

“Science, as always, brings us many new additions including CRISPR, pareidolia, microbiome, and prosopagnosia, which is an inability to recognize faces,” Merriam-Webster said in a statement emailed to The Scientist. “On the opposite end of the scientific spectrum is the word woo-woo, defined as ‘dubiously or outlandishly mystical, supernatural, or unscientific.’”

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Popular Now

  1. Running on Empty
    Features Running on Empty

    Regularly taking breaks from eating—for hours or days—can trigger changes both expected, such as in metabolic dynamics and inflammation, and surprising, as in immune system function and cancer progression.

  2. Athletes’ Microbiomes Differ from Nonathletes
  3. Mutation Linked to Longer Life Span in Men
  4. Gut Feeling
    Daily News Gut Feeling

    Sensory cells of the mouse intestine let the brain know if certain compounds are present by speaking directly to gut neurons via serotonin.

AAAS