Researchers Detect ‘Disappearing’ Words That Are Falling Out of Usage

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What do the words “succedaneum” and “wittol” have in common? Here’s a clue: you probably won’t be encountering them on your next GRE test anytime soon.

Even though you’re probably more concerned about crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, its easy to forget that language is a living, changing thing. Collins Dictionary has compiled a list of words that are slowly becoming passé. Bets are that if you’re not using any of these words, you have nothing to fear about becoming tragically unhip (unless you have a love of chain watches that we don’t know about).

(MOREThe Oxford-English Dictionary Adds ‘♥’ and ‘LOL’ as Words)

Ruth O’Donovan, who is the asset development manager at the dictionary’s language division, told the Telegraph, ”We track words using a very large database of language which is a very large collection of various texts from spoken and written language, including books, newspapers and magazines so we can track language change over time… We can also track for the frequency of existing words and when they get below a certain threshold we see them as being obsolete, though they may be used in very specialist circumstances.”

While they plan to publish their research October 2011, here’s a short list of words that just aren’t making the cut today:

Alienism, the study and treatment of mental illness
Cyclogiro, a type of aircraft propelled by rotating blades
Charabanc, an early motor coach
Drysalter, a dealer in certain chemical products and foods
Supererogate, to do or perform more than is required
Succedaneum, something that is used as a substitute
Woolfell, the skin of a sheep or woolly-type animal with fleece attached
Wittol, a man who tolerates his wife’s unfaithfulness

What else is proof that these words are dying out? The fact that Microsoft Word tells me that half of these words are spelled incorrectly.

MORE: Oxford Vault Contains Millions of Rejected Dictionary Words

Erica Ho is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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