If you’re a fan of “The Simpsons,” then you likely draw inspiration from the fact that “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” Now, people who live in Springfield won’t be the only ones living by that creed.
Webster’s Dictionary has officially made it socially acceptable to say those words in public—and even in academic settings! That’s right, the word “embiggen” has been added to the dictionary. So if you’re using “embiggen” in a sentence and someone questions the validity of the word, you can simply say, “Look it up.”
Now, in case you find yourself competing in a spelling bee and have to spell “embiggen,” here’s how Merriam-Webster would define and use the word in a sentence:
Webster’s Dictionary defines “embiggen” as “to make bigger or more expansive.” And here’s an example of how you could use it in daily life: “Reading that book embiggened my knowledge of the subject.”
If you bristle at the idea of a comical word from a cartoon becoming an “official” part of the English language, Merriam-Webster associate editor Emily Brewster says it’s the lasting effect of a word that helps it earn a place in the dictionary.
“In order for a word to be added to the dictionary it must have widespread, sustained, and meaningful use,” Brewster told Business Insider in a statement. “These new words have been added to the dictionary because they have become established members of the English language, and are terms people are likely to encounter.”
The word “embiggen” was first used in the 1996 episode “Lisa The Iconoclast.” In the episode, a short film about the founder of Springfield is playing for elementary school students and, in it, Jebediah Springfield inspires all by saying, “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.”
A teacher who is showing the film says she’d never heard that word before she moved to Springfield. Another teacher replies, “I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.”
The word has seen even more frequent use as of late. It’s often used as a technical term in Marvel’s “Ms. Marvel” comic series, wherein Kamala Khan shape-shifts her body in order to make it larger. In fact, Merriam-Webster used a Ms. Marvel gif when they tweeted out the announcement of the word’s addition to the dictionary:
Unlike “embiggens,” “cromulent” hasn’t made its way into the dictionary just yet.
According to “The Simpsons” writer Michael Price, you have his fellow writer Dan Greaney to thank for coming up with the dictionary’s latest entry. “Congrats to my friend, @dangreaney, the creator of “embiggen,” he wrote on Twitter this week.
According to Business Insider, the inclusion of “embiggen” and “cromulent” in the episode were the results of a dare on writers to use fake words that sounded real. So, there you have it.
Of course, these aren’t the only made-up words “The Simpsons” has made popular. The show also coined “craptacular,” “meh,” and “unpossible,” to name a few.
Merriam-Webster added a total of 850 new words this month. Along with “embiggen,” you’ll also find words such as “mansplain,” “life hack,” “glamping” and “dumpster fire” between the pages of a Webster’s Dictionary.
Considering “The Simpsons” is in its 29th season and still going strong, we have a feeling there will be plenty more words from the show’s writing staff just waiting to be made socially acceptable in everyday use.