Reuters/Lucas Jackson
Miley Cyrus performs with Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

Oxford Online Adds Twerk, Selfie and Pixie Cut; Not Because of Miley Cyrus

August 30, 2013

While more than 40 new words were recently added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online, twerk has taken the cake pop—another of the recent entries.

While the dance has been around for at least two decades, its popularity has risen in recent months with Miley Cyrus’s renditions of it, most recently on the MTV Video Music Awards while performing with Robin Thicke.

Oxford defines twerk as a verb, a “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.”

The definition mentions nothing of Cyrus’s use of her tongue while twerking during the VMAs or the origin of the word.

“There are many theories about the origin of this word, and since it arose in oral use, we may never know the answer for sure,” Oxford Dictionaries’ Katherine Connor Martin told the Associated Press. “We think the most likely theory is that it is an alteration of work, because that word has a history of being used in similar ways, with dancers being encouraged to ‘work it.’ The ‘t’ could be a result of blending with another word such as twist or twitch.”

But the addition of twerk in Oxford’s latest round of words wasn’t because of Cyrus’s performance at the VMAs or the publicity it garnered. In announcing all the new words, Oxford said they “may have only just entered the dictionary, but we’ve been watching them for a while now, tracking how and where they are used.”

It’s just a coincidence that pop stars like Cyrus like taking a selfie to post on Instagram of their new pixie cut.

And don't get confused. These words will only appear in Oxford's online version, not in the more prestigious Oxford English Dictionary.

See a list of all the new words at

Feel like learning how to twerk from someone other than Miley? Try this video.