Food News

This Food Word Was Just Added to the Dictionary

February  5, 2018

Just last week, the Oxford English Dictionary added 1,100 entries to their linguistic cache as part of a quarterly update. Included among the list of new words and phrases, one in particular caught our attention: Hangry is now officially a word.

We’ve all seen (or felt) it happen. The irritation that sets in after going a little too long without food. Your blood sugar dips, your temper boils. Hangry, a portmanteau of hunger and anger, describes a bad mood brought about by a lack of food. The official definition reads: “Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.”

In recent years the word has seemed to balloon in popularity. It’s distinct from more serious cases of chronic hunger or starvation, but rather, is used colloquially to describe something a bit more temporary. Say, an irritable friend who can’t be bothered before lunch or a short-fused uncle who can’t hold a conversation until they eat breakfast. Katherine Connor Martin, the head of U.S. Dictionaries at Oxford, had this to say about the word’s surprising history:

Shop the Story

“It is only in the 21st century that the word hangry, a blend of hungry and angry used colloquially to mean ‘bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger’, has entered common use. However, the earliest known evidence for the word dates from 1956, in an unusual article in the psychoanalytic journal American Imago that describes various kinds of deliberate and accidental wordplay. The author mentions hangry in a discussion of words formed by contraction or elision. Some of these, like brunch, were already established at the time, but most of them, such as criumph (a crime triumph), and sexperience (sexual experience) have still not caught on with the English-speaking public.”

Hmm, interesting. It seems people have been trying to justify their bad moods with a lack of food for a while now. Well now, they can officially! As our culture shifts, so too do the words we use to describe it. Hangry is only one of the many words gaining this recognition. The list also includes mansplaining, swag, and me time.

Do you ever get hangry? Tell us your horror stories in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.

1 Comment

Robby H. February 6, 2018
What we really need is a succinct word for the bleary, slightly cranky under-caffeinated of the world.