Ransomware so popular it’s added to Oxford English Dictionary

Monday, 5 February, 2018

Oxford English Dictionary’s quarterly update of new words has included ‘ransomware’ for the first time. Ransomware is one of a 1,000 new terms added to the dictionary’s 829,000 words.

Other internet-related words to make it into the dictionary includes selfie, e-shopping and esc. That’s esc as in the instruction to ‘press the esc key.’ What’s more it is now classified as a regular noun.

The OED describes ransomware as a ‘type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid’.

England got its first taste of national panic over ransomware when North Korea-linked hackers distributed the WannaCry worm into NHS computer systems last autumn.

The OED is a little behind its sister edition the New Oxford American Dictionary, which has had the term included since 2017.

An interesting difference is that the English version sees ransomware as a mass noun, so it always appears in the singular. While the Americans don’t, which means they write ransomwares when talking plural.

What else is new?

Among 1,000 new words added to the dictionary this time round are:

Hangry: Bad tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.

Lactivism: Advocating in favour of breast-feeding.

Masstige: A combination of the words mass and prestige that refers to cheap products marketed as luxurious.

BFN/BFP: Big fat negative or big fat positive, related to the results of a pregnancy test.

TTC: Trying to conceive.

Geg: Liverpudlian slang for intruding or joining in uninvited.

Mansplaining: Perhaps with the global campaigning of #MeToo in mind, the OED has included the phrase Mansplaining which is defined as something, ‘needlessly, overbearingly, or condescendingly, especially to women, in a manner thought to reveal a patronising or chauvinistic attitude.’

Feet to the fire

According to the annual Ransomware Damage Report, global damage from ransomware will have exceeded $5 billion in 2017.

But the biggest cost to businesses is not paying the ransom but down-time. Intermedia’s recent survey found that on average 72% of businesses lost two days, with 32% saying they had lost five days or more following an attack.

Guide: Key steps you must take to protect yourself against ransomware

Scarily, cybersecurity firm Sophos, who specialise in uncovering ransomware, come across 390,000 new ransomware programs every day. That’s more than 16,000 an hour.

The OED is updated four times a year. The next update is due in April 2018.

MAIN IMAGE: Christiaan Colen/CC BY-SA 2.0

TG Bamford author picture


A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.

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