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The Oxford English Dictionary Adds "Kewl"

By
Mignon Fogarty,

Now in an Oxford English Dictionary near you: "kewl."

"Kewl" is a funky spelling of "cool," and in my experience is pronounced slightly differently. (The OED lists two U.S. pronunciations: /kjul/ and /kul/.) 

"Kewl" may seem new to you, but the OED places its first use all the way back in 1990 in a Usenet group post about the band Jane's Addiction. Its adoption into the  mainstream seems swift: by 1995 it appeared in the serious science magazine New Scientist (albeit in quotation marks). The OED's first example of "kewl" used without quotation marks is in 2007.

The OED still marks "kewl" as slang, which means you shouldn't use it in your annual reports or school papers. Use it anywhere a smiley face would seem appropriate. (The Collins English Dictionary, available through Dictionary.com also includes "kewl." Merriam-Webster's online dictionary does not.)

What do you think? Have you ever used "kewl"? Will it fade away like "phat," "square," and "boogie" or gain a lasting place in the English language like "cool"?

Related ArticleHow Do Words Get in the Dictionary?

Mignon Fogarty is the author of Grammar Girl's 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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