Each year brings us new words. They pepper our sentences, giving us a respite from shopworn duds like "great" or "awful." They spin around in our mouths and flip off our lips, and make our sentences feel fresh and new, even though some of these words — silly combinations of letters really — are just dusty old things that pop culture has smiled upon and given new life.
And these words make us feel things, ranging from seething rage to blissful amusement. They do this by hitting some universal truth so precisely or by combining letters in a sequence that conjures shivers and goosebumps. But beware: these new coinages may become so over-used and over-worn that you just want to burn the alphabet to the ground.
For better or worse, here are some of the words that filled our sentences in 2014:
What it means and where it came from: This portmanteau is the spawn of fashion designers, the journalists that cover them, and the gradual realization that resistance against yoga pants is futile. Athleisure refers to fancy, stylish gym clothes ("aprés sport," it's sometimes called) worn as fashion instead of workout gear.
"Athleisure combines trendiness with treadmills," writes Chase Rosen, the woman behind Athleisurely, a lifestyle blog that defines the athleisure lifestyle.
Use it in a sentence: "Martha eyed the last pair of Lululemon Wunder Under pants like a lion eyeing a baby gazelle; athleisure was in her grasp, and no one could stop her."
Prognosis for 2015: Look for it to hold on through the first couple months, since people will be interested in keeping up with their New Year's resolutions.
What it means and where it came from: Bae is a way to refer to someone you like, have a crush on, or deeply appreciate. Time was mocked this year for failing to acknowledge that the term comes from black slang. Like some other words we'll see on this list, bae lived a full life before being co-opted by everyone else.
Use it in a sentence: "Rihanna is bae."
Prognosis for 2015: Going strong until May.
What it means and where it came from: "Basic" was the go-to and, at the same time, most overused insult in 2014. The word, not unlike "bae," started off in the black community as slang for someone who isn't original.
"Being basic just means that you aren't that dope. A basic woman or a basic bitch blindly follows trends and isn't an individual. You may dress nicely and have expensive things, but when it comes down to it, you just ain't that fly," Jezebel's Kara Brown explained.
The word blew up this year thanks to exposure from Rihanna and a viral video from College Humor. (We fully realize how basic the last part of that sentence sounds.) It started to become synonymous with stuff like yoga, iced coffees, and North Face. Thus, it became heavily associated with a stereotyped image of white women.
Its usage eventually got so silly that thinkpieces were written — one even surmised that "basic" was all about class anxiety — some of which ignored the word's roots.
An ouroboros of basicness was created in 2014, and we are all lucky that we survived.
Use it in a sentence: "Thinkpieces about basic are basic."
Prognosis for 2015: Dead by mid-January. Soon to be replaced by "washed."
What it means and where it came from: Chia is the heir apparent to kale. Chia seeds, like kale, are reportedly a super food that are supposedly really, really good for you. However, it's also possible that foods like chia seeds and kale just benefit from really savvy marketing.
Use it in a sentence: "While the rest of his friends ordered fried chicken, Troy ate his sad bowl of chia seeds and smiled, even though he was dead inside."
Prognosis for 2015: Bubbles up in June, quickly overtaken by ylang ylang.
What it means and where it came from: Feminist isn't exactly a new word, but in 2014 people were heavily interested in fleshing it out. Beyoncéfamously performed while the word flashed behind her during MTV's VMA awards, movements like #notallmen and #gamergate tried to mar the word, and celebrities like Emma Watson, Taylor Swift, and Lena Dunham defined it.
Use it in a sentence: "Susie is a feminist, as she demands equality and is sick of the bullshit."
Prognosis for 2015: Simmers along nicely until the new Rihanna album drops.
What it means and where it came from: It means something is on point or in tip-top shape. It's a term originated by Vine star Peaches Monroee. Fleek is more commonly used in reference to the maintenance of eyebrows.
Use it in a sentence: I will let Ms. Monroee do the honors:
Prognosis for 2015: Rises to its rightful prominence in August.
What it means and where it came from: Garbage is used when you can't stress how awful something is. Garb, an abbreviation, is also acceptable.
Use it in a sentence: "Julie spent most of her time on Twitter, which is why her life curdled into hot, milky garb."
Prognosis for 2015: Peaks in April. Resurfaces in August.
What it means and where it came from: The darkest corners of the internet, the kind that you need a lantern and a canary to find, produced #Gamergate. It refers to a movement that's supposed to be about ethics in games journalism, but ended up mostly being about the harassment of women.
Use it in a sentence: "I really believe in #Gamergate, and I'm also the reason we can't have nice things."
Prognosis for 2015: Dead before it arrived.
What it means and where it came from: Think of health goth as athleisure's brooding, mordant cousin. It's a respect for mortality, exercising your body until it gets to that point, and wearing lots of black. It's a "feeling of sadness, but also sportiness," according to New York magazine.
Use it in a sentence: "Adam's mom walked into the ocean after he told her that he needed more chia seeds to feed his health goth lifestyle."
Prognosis for 2015: Like athleisure, health goth will swirl and bubble in January and February and die off when people start to abandon their New Year's resolutions.
What it means and where it came from: Also known as smart takes, hot takes come from the world of journalism. They refer to the pieces written when big news breaks. The Awl's Jon Herman explained the idea of takes — hot, smart, dumb, silly — in September during the nude celebrity hack of 2014:
In such a situation the internet's craving for sex and humiliation is effectively infinite. This throws the Content industry into a frantic generative mode, initiating a full-spectrum stress test on par with a natural disaster or a war. This weekend was a consumption bonanza, a historic seller's market for Content was no time for mere reports and analysis, no, that would never be enough. It was Take Time.
Take Time, the internet's evolutionary defense against attention surplus, can be large or small, quick or long.
Use it in a sentence: "After publishing a hot take on the internet, Kim's @mentions were filled with hate."
Prognosis for 2015: Takes are immortal. Takes will never die. Long live takes.
What it means and where it came from: Slay means to execute something so perfectly, that you need a special word to describe it, because crush, kill, and destroy will not do. It's in the same vein as those words, and in the same cultural petri dish as words like "die" or "dead," which are also used to signify something's amazingness. Drag queens like Jujubee and Bianca Del Rio usually slay, but pop stars like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé can, too.
Use it in a sentence: "'Slay, mama,' the final Lady Gaga fan yelled before the portal closed and all the demons returned to their native land."
Prognosis for 2015: Limps off into obscurity after no one uses it to describe Madonna's new album.
What it means and where it came from: Thirst is the intersection of eager and desperate. Thirst has been around for ages, though it's really found a groove as we become more attuned to social media. Because we don't interact like humans anymore and prefer to interact digitally, thirst is now more realized, thanks to quantifiable things like faves, retweets, likes, and text messages.
Use it in a sentence: "Tom faved Jill's smiley-face tweet because he is thirsty and embarrassing."
Prognosis for 2015: The thirst is real and will never be quenched.