From ‘slay’ to ‘snowflakes’: An interactive timeline of words lost and born

The language we use is a changeable thing and is heavily influenced by our society – from social media, cultural trends and modern technology – new words are appearing by the day. But what words have we lost from our lexicon over the years?

Research, from digital subscription service Readly finds when words have entered and departed from the English language. The study reveals words from a range of topics including insults like ‘loathly’ from 1099, which only ‘died’ in 1945, and covers words that made their debut as recently as 2019.

Oldest words lost to history

While words and phrases that died out in more recent years might still be recognisable, if uncommon – like ‘up to snuff’ and ‘knuckle sandwich’ – some words have been completely lost.

  • Kirtle: Largely disappearing from the English language in 1614, a kirtle is a noun used to name a woman’s gown or man’s tunic.

  • Malapert: Used to describe a presumptuous or impudent person, the adjective malapert made its debut in the 14th century and was a known favourite of Shakespeare.

  • Bruit: Still used with surprising frequency, the word bruit can be found over 200 times across magazines in the Readly platform and can be used to describe a report or rumour, although it has not been seen as common language since 1679.

  • Kickshaw: Kickshaw can be used to describe a fancy but insubstantial cooked dish. The first known use of the word can be traced to 1597 where it was originally a take of the French word ‘quelque chose’.

  • Latchet: An archaic term used to name a narrow thong or lace for fastening a shoe or sandal – the word made its debut in the 14th century. The noun was made obsolete in 1707 but still pops up around 59 times in magazines across the Readly platform.

Archaic insults and compliments that should make a comeback

Lurdans and slugabeds, scaramouche and poltroons – would you recognise when you’re being insulted and when you’re being praised?






An idle or incompetent person




A lazy person who stays in bed late




A dashing gentleman




A foolish person




A boastful but cowardly person



To see how often these words are actually used in the modern day, we searched over 4,000 magazines on the Readly platform. While some words, such as ‘gallant’ are still frequently (x3239) used as nostalgic throwbacks to bygone eras, words such as ‘lurdan’ (x0) and ‘mooncalf’ (x3) have truly been lost as they barely appear at all.

Modern slang words that will have you shooketh

While some words have left our lingo, the modern world is a melting pot of TV shows, technology, and Twitter, with new words popping up every year.

  • Bougie: Entering our lives in 2018, the adjective bougie is short for bourgeois and is a term used to mark a concern for wealth, possessions, and respectability.

  • Biohacking: Biological experimentation to improve living organisms, usually outside of a traditional medical or scientific research environment. The concept has been around for a while, but the word became prominent in 2018.

  • Thicc: Used since 2015, the word thicc can be used to describe a full-figured body, specifically focused on the butt.

  • Gamification: Prominent since 2010, gamification has become increasingly popular as a practice in the workplace and with products and services. Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing to other areas of activity.

Ranj Begley, UK MD and Chief Content Officer from Readly said: ‘Language is defined by our culture and the evolution of many different influences. It’s interesting to see how some words have longevity and others have come and gone.

‘The rise of technology and social media has brought about so many new words and concepts that we are seeing used in the magazines on our platform today.’