The evolution of language online

You grow up believing that you have a good grasp of English and a firm understanding of what words mean. Then along comes the internet and suddenly words, such as ‘cloud’ and ‘troll’, are being used in entirely new contexts. Since the internet boom, many common words have been appropriated for online use.

Here are 10 words that now mean something different now, as compiled by to mark its 20th birthday:


Then: “to obstruct (someone or something) by placing obstacles in the way.”

What it means online: “to prevent someone from contacting you on a social network, such as Twitter, or from viewing your profile.”


What it means: “any of the numerous fishes of the order or suborder Nematognathi (or Siluroidei), characterised by barbels around the mouth and the absence of scales.”

What it means online: “a person who assumes a false identity or personality on the internet, especially on social-media websites, as to deceive, manipulate, or swindle.”


What it means: “a visible collection of particles of water or ice suspended in the air, usually at an elevation above the earth’s surface.”

What it means online: “any of several, often proprietary, parts of the internet that allow online processing and storage of documents and data as well as electronic access to software and other resources (usually preceded by the).”


What it means: “to go or come after; move behind in the same direction.”

What it means online: “to subscribe to someone’s updates on social media.”


What it means: “to be suitable or agreeable to.”

What it means online: “to indicate one’s enjoyment of, agreement with, or interest in website content, especially in social media.”


What it means: “a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition and replication in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.”

What it means online: “a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.”


What it means: “to supply with an identifying marker or price; to attach as an addition.”

What it means online: “to link to someone else’s profile in a social media post, commonly a photo or status update.”


What it means: “a linear representation of important events in the order in which they occurred.”

What it means online: “a collection of online posts or updates associated with a specific social-media account, in reverse chronological order.”


What it means: “(in Scandinavian folklore) any of a race of supernatural beings, sometimes conceived as giants and sometimes as dwarfs, inhabiting caves or subterranean dwellings.”

What it means online: “to post inflammatory or inappropriate messages or comments online for the purpose of upsetting other users and provoking a response.”


What it means: “of, relating to, or caused by a virus.”

What it means online: “becoming very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially through the internet.”

See the fill list at


Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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