Menu

Newest Life Science Additions to the Dictionary

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

Feb 8, 2017
Kerry Grens

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.’”

February 2019

Big Storms Brewing

Can forests weather more major hurricanes?

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb), a global leader of life science research and clinical diagnostic products, today announced that its QXDx AutoDG ddPCR System, which uses Bio-Rad’s Droplet Digital PCR technology, and the QXDx BCR-ABL %IS Kit are the industry’s first digital PCR products to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Used together, Bio-Rad’s system and kit can precisely and reproducibly monitor molecular response to treatment in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb) today showcases new automation features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer during the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening 2019 International Conference and Exhibition (SLAS) in Washington, D.C., February 2–6. These capabilities enable the ZE5 to be used for high-throughput flow cytometry in biomarker discovery and phenotypic screening.
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Researchers to benefit from an innovative software-connected pipetting system, bringing improved reproducibility and traceability of experiments to life-science laboratories.
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW) will showcase advanced 3D cell culture technologies and workflow solutions for spheroids, organoids, tissue models, and applications including ADME/toxicology at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference, Feb. 2-6 in Washington, D.C.