Oxford English Dictionary extends definition of ‘woke’

View of the Oxford American College dictionary. The meaning of "woke" has been expanded in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Caption
View of the Oxford American College dictionary. The meaning of "woke" has been expanded in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

If you've attended a social-justice protest or watched an episode of "Dear White People," you've likely heard the word "woke." But the term wasn't being used to refer to sleep. It was being used to describe political awareness, and the Oxford English Dictionary is taking note.

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This week, the organization has expanded the meaning of “woke.”

It no longer just defines the word as the past participle of "wake." It's now also an adjective that means "alert to injustice in society, especially racism."

"By the mid-20th century, woke had been extended figuratively to refer to being 'aware' or 'well informed' in a political or cultural sense," Oxford told The Huffington Post. "In the past decade, that meaning has been catapulted into mainstream use with a particular nuance of 'alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.'"

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The dictionary also noted that the word was popularized by Erykah Badu’s 2008 song “Master Teacher.” In it, she sings, “I stay woke.” The phrase began to be more widely used in 2014 in association with the Black Lives Matter movement.

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“Woke” isn’t the only African American slang word to be added. “Bootylicious,” “bling bling” and “twerk” have also been included in the dictionary.

The word has been updated on Oxford's website and in its upcoming print edition.

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