Founded in 1999, Urban Dictionary has been spreading the motto “Define Your World” and crowdsourcing slang words and phrases for all to see. While originally planned to be a dictionary of cultural words and phrases atypical of standard dictionaries, in recent time it’s been used to define nearly any world or phrase. For example, bro ship is a non-romantic pairing of two or more characters, but as friends.
Urban Dictionary often sports several definitions for a single term, and currently has nearly ten million definitions, with several thousand being added daily.
Another more serious problem is the trumping up of definitions as a means of embarrassing people, for example associating explicit definitions to certain names. The critiques on racist, sexist or in general offensive content on Urban Dictionary are nearly endless, for example, a Change.org petition was raised to remove the racist definitions of the word “aboriginal” and gained nearly eight thousand signatures. In recent years, the situation on purging of such definitions has been getting better.
With its rise in popularity, Urban Dictionary has become more of a real dictionary, even being used in a court case in 2013 to define certain clang terms or general phrases omitted from usual dictionaries due to their explicit nature, such as a sexual harassment court case in which the phrase “to nut” needed to be defined.
While one might think that Urban Dictionary needs loads of workers to process all that, it is actually completely crowd based, with definitions being made and rejected through community votes received from volunteer editors.
In spite of all that, Urban Dictionary still has its problems. For one, its name, implying it is urban might lead to the conclusion that urban communities share a common vocabulary, which is rarely true.
To conclude, founded by a freshman CS major from California, Urban Dictionary is likely the largest English dictionary in the world right now, beating others in sheer numbers and a hallmark of the online world.
You can check it out at “https://www.urbandictionary.com/”.