This year marks the 100th anniversary for the Treaty of Versailles, the first transatlantic flight, and, apparently, the word “fanboy.” 

The Merriam-Webster Time Traveller tool tracks when words were first recorded in print, all the way back to 1492. Thanks to this marvel of technology, we’re able to look back and celebrate some of the the most memorable neologisms (def: a new word, usage, or expression; origin: 1772) celebrating their 100th birthday in the year ahead. Don’t be an apple-knocker (def: a rustic; origin: 1919) , and have a look at a half dozen other centenarian dictionary entries.


You might be surprised that basketball players were dunking in 1919, or that basketball even existed in 1919, but both are evidenced by this listing, referring to someone who dunks a basketball. The word’s meaning would go on to include anyone who is too rowdy at the pool, accurately hits the target at the carnival dunk-tank, or puts a sweet breakfast bread into a cup of coffee or an Oreo cookie in a glass of milk.


How little times have changed. While the pop-culture connoisseurs of 1919 might not have had Star Wars, the idea of “a boy or man who is an extremely or over-enthusiastic fan of someone or something” still meant something way back when.  Note: Fangirl didn’t come into usage until 1934, some 15 years later.

Jigsaw Puzzle

Named for the kind of vertical saw used in cutting puzzle pieces, the jigsaw puzzle is now most known as a fun but futile vacation activity you attempt with your in-laws.


Used to describe anything that prevents or alleviates stress, this addition would go on to appear on nearly half of all food and supplement labels in Whole Foods by 2018.

Complimentary Close

You’ve written a “complimentary close” before, even if you didn’t know it. A complimentary close is a word or phrase that comes before your signature and expresses your “regard for the receiver” in a letter or email. “Sincerely,” “Best wishes,” and “Yours truly” are all complimentary closes.  

Danish Pastry

If you ever make it over to Copenhagen, don’t ask for a Danish at breakfast. These sweet and typically fruit-filled baked goods are actually called Viennese Bread in Denmark because the Austrians originally introduced them there.

Check out Mental Floss for 14 more of 1919’s hottest coinages. 

Or head to Merriam Webster’s 1919 entry page for the full list of words and phrases turning 100 this year, including but not limited to: air traffic control, antioxidant, basket case, bistro, cold turkey, Girl Scout, golden retriever, loony bin, love nest, penne, run of the mill, sadomasochism, sports car, supersonic, traffic court, and voyeuristic.

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