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Wiktionary inclusion criteria

Wiktionary’s inclusion criteria are more relaxed than those of Oxford University Press and Merriam-Webster, discussed in Step 4.8.

In order to gain entry into Wiktionary, a term has to have proven uses over at least a year, but it does not have to have been in existence for an extended period of time, or to have built up a large collection of citations.

The general rule is that ‘a term should be included if it’s likely that someone would run across it and want to know what it means’. Contributors need to provide evidence that the term is in widespread use, in ‘permanently recorded media, conveying meaning, in at least three independent instances spanning at least a year’. The requirement for ‘independent’ instances means that the new word must appear in ‘different sentences by different people’; it is not enough for one person’s use of the word to be quoted by other people, or for the word to be simply reused by the same person.

Wiktionary items don’t have to be single words. They can be:

  • Compounds and multiple-word terms such as ‘post office’.

  • Proverbs.

  • Abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms, such as ‘NBA’.

  • Prefixes and suffixes such as ‘re-’ and ‘-ist’.

  • Characters used in ideographic or phonetic writing.

  • Idioms such as ‘give up the ghost’.

It’s usually easy to decide whether an expression is an idiom, but in cases of doubt Wiktionary has some tests for idiomaticity.

Wiktionary aims to include ‘all words in all languages’, but not to invent new ones, so making words up simply to include them in the dictionary is not allowed. Instead there is a special list for newly invented words, which Wiktionary calls protologisms. This is kept separate from the dictionary proper.

Your task

Think of an idiomatic expression that would pass Wiktionary’s tests for idiomaticity.

Does this idiom meet the other criteria for inclusion in Wiktionary, or in the Macmillan Open Dictionary?

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding English Dictionaries

Coventry University