Merriam-Webster Gives Business Words New Meanings

Weeds grow past the height of a picket fence in front of an abandoned house in Richmond, California Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The word “toxic” (from the Latin toxicus) was first used in 1664, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and meant “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation.” This week, Merriam-Webster announced that it has endowed the word with a new meaning: “relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market.” Bearing in mind recent economic woes, it’s not surprising to learn that the new definitions for business words introduced by the dictionary in 2012 are for “toxic” and “underwater.” Along with new additions such as “f-bomb” and “man cave”, the phrase “systemic risk” is making its long-awaited dictionary debut.

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