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'Twerking' 200 Years Old? The Word Is, According to Oxford Dictionary

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This August 25, 2013 file photo shows Miley Cyrus performing at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

By    |   Thursday, 25 Jun 2015 02:52 PM

The concept of twerking may be 200 years old and not a new dancing movement made popular by Miley Cyrus.

The lexicographers studying the word for its recent addition to the Oxford English Dictionary determined that it had been used in 1820, when it was spelled "twirk," The Associated Press reported. It was described as a twitchy or jerky movement.

It was first spelled with an “e” in 1901, according to the dictionary researchers. The Oxford English Dictionary adds new words or updates words four times a year, and its scheduled June 2015 update includes “twerk" as a new word, referencing it as a dance, according to the AP. It was added to the venerable dictionary's online edition in 2013.

The word's meaning shifted to mean a dance during the 1990s New Orleans music scene.

"We are confident that it is the same origins as the dance,” Oxford senior editor Fiona McPherson told the BBC. "There has been constant use up into the present day to mean that same thing. I think it's quite spectacular, the early origins for it. We were quite surprised."

The new definition of twerk in the dictionary is to dance "in a sexually provocative manner, using thrusting movements of the bottom and hips while in a low, squatting stance," the BBC reported.


Along with twerk and twerking, the Oxford English Dictionary added 500 new words,  phrases, and updated definitions.

Those include updating the word “go.” According to an OED blog, the word now contains 603 senses, or ways the word can be used.

“That’s shy of the 654 senses of another short verb of motion, run, which remains the longest entry in the dictionary to date,” the OED blog post said. “But it’s still unusually large, and there are few words in the language comparable to go in scope, complexity, and usefulness.”

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The concept of twerking may be 200 years old and not a new dancing movement made popular by Miley Cyrus.
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Thursday, 25 Jun 2015 02:52 PM
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