Ten words from the Oxford Dictionary of African American English have been revealed ahead of its expected March 2025 release.
The Oxford Dictionary of African American English was first announced in June 2022 as a three-year research project that will define words and phrases that are uniquely African American and serve as a scholarly resource for Black speech, history, and culture.
Researchers and editors, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., are drawing from blues and hip-hop lyrics, Black literature, and even Black Twitter to complete the project, which is set to have an initial batch of 1,000 definitions.
During a recent virtual presentence, the first 100 words of the dictionary were shared, including phrases like "bussin," which means impressive or tasty, and "boo," a lover. Ten words — bussin, grill, Promised Land, chitterlings, kitchen, cakewalk, old school, pat, Aunt Hagar's children, ring shot — were shared with the New York Times.
See the complete entries of the ten words below.
bussin (adjective and participle): 1. Especially describing food: tasty, delicious. Also more generally: impressive, excellent. 2. Describing a party, event, etc.: busy, crowded, lively. (Variant forms: bussing, bussin’.)
grill (n.): A removable or permanent dental overlay, typically made of silver, gold or another metal and often inset with gemstones, which is worn as jewelry.
Promised Land (n.): A place perceived to be where enslaved people and, later, African Americans more generally, can find refuge and live in freedom. (Etymology: A reference to the biblical story of Jewish people seeking freedom from Egyptian bondage.)
chitterlings (n. plural): A dish made from pig intestines that are typically boiled, fried or stuffed with other ingredients. Occasionally also pig intestines as an ingredient. (Variant forms: chitlins, chittlins, chitlings, chitterlins.)
kitchen (n.): The hair at the nape of the neck, which is typically shorter, kinkier and considered more difficult to style.
cakewalk (n.): 1. A contest in which Black people would perform a stylized walk in pairs, typically judged by a plantation owner. The winner would receive some type of cake. 2. Something that is considered easily done, as in This job is a cakewalk.
old school (adj.): Characteristic of early hip-hop or rap music that emerged in New York City between the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, which often includes the use of couplets, funk and disco samples, and playful lyrics. Also used to describe the music and artists of that style and time period. (Variant form: old skool.)
pat (verb): 1. transitive. To tap (the foot) in rhythm with music, sometimes as an indication of participation in religious worship. 2. intransitive. Usually of a person’s foot: to tap in rhythm with music, sometimes to demonstrate participation in religious worship.
Aunt Hagar’s children (n.): A reference to Black people collectively. (Etymology: Probably a reference to Hagar in the Bible, who, with her son, Ishmael, was cast out by Sarah and Abraham [Ishmael’s father], and became, among some Black communities, the symbolic mother of all Africans and African Americans and of Black womanhood.)
ring shout (n.): A spiritual ritual involving a dance where participants follow one another in a ring shape, shuffling their feet and clapping their hands to accompany chanting and singing. The dancing and chanting gradually intensify and often conclude with participants exhibiting a state of spiritual ecstasy.