Zooey Deschanel Deserves Credit For Fun New Word In Merriam-Webster


It’s impossible to separate the word “adorkable” from the career of the delightful Zooey Deschanel. The word, which was first popularized online in the early 2010s, is getting renewed attention thanks to its addition to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this month. Let’s take a dive into the etymology of “adorkable.”

‘Adorkable’ Is A Portmanteau

As you can probably guess, “adorkable” is a combination of the words “adorable” and “dork.” This special kind of word-fusion is called a portmanteau, and we use them in English far more often than you might realize. Motel, brunch, podcast, and brainiac are all commonly used portmanteaus. They’re so widely used that they’ve taken on a separate meaning from their origin words.

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“Adorkable” has a similar history. While it was once a delightfully quirky adjective reserved for Twitter, it’s now a dictionary-recognized word used in online and in-person conversation alike. However, the word has an interesting history. Not all Millennial internet slang makes it into Merriam-Webster. Here’s a brief history of “adorkable” in popular culture.

The First Use Of The Word Traces Back To 2001

In 2012, Vulture did a deep dive into the quirky word and found its earliest incarnation in the form of a personal blog. On February 27, 2001, a person named Hilary claimed the web address adorkable.blogspot.com. It seemed to be an online diary of a teenage girl, with plenty of ramblings about a boy named Josh and arguments with her parents. While there’s no telling when the word “adorkable” first came into use, it looks like Hilary introduced it to the internet.

Then, on January 20, 2003, user Miss AnGie added “Adorkable” to UrbanDictionary.com. “Simply adorable but in the utmost dorky way. Cute. Silly. Funny. Spiff,” the definition read. The example sentence read, “Oh that AnGie is SO adorkable!” In 2006, the word earned the prestigious honor of “Urban Word of the Day.” In 2007, Time journalist Joel Stein wrote an article about The O.C. actor Adam Brody called “Looking for Mr. Adorkable,” further affirming the word as its own relevant adjective.

‘Adorkable’ Reached New Heights In 2011

Still, we doubt “adorkable” would have made it into any dictionaries had it not been for the Fox sitcom New Girl. Elizabeth Meriwether’s quirky sitcom starring Zooey Deschanel was the essence of adorkable in its first season. Deschanel already had a reputation as the offbeat, hipster chick with a love for all things musical and vintage.

As the lead of New Girl, the show heavily leaned into Deschanel’s beloved quirky nature. The tagline on promotional images read, “Simply adorkable.” The word was inescapable as buzz for the new show increased which only encouraged more use of the word itself—especially among the show’s fans. Just a few years later, the word won a Twitter poll and was entered into the Collins English Dictionary.

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Of course, Deschanel later said she resented how people used the word to describe her own personal life. “That’s a word that describes the character that I play, not me. I don’t personally have identification with that word myself,” she told the Huffington Post in 2015, insisting it was the show’s marketing team that leaned so heavily into her adorkable-ness.

Nevertheless, the word owes its place in the Merriam-Webster dictionary at least in part to Deschanel and her wonderful, adorkable character, Jessica Day, from New Girl.

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