Nature word for otter is removed from dictionary

I recently attended a talk by eco warrior and nature words writer Terry Tempest Williams. Although she is a great speaker I can only remember one thing from the two-hour event.


About half way through her talk Terry told the audience that the following words have been removed from the new version of the Oxford Junior Dictionary:


Acorn, almond, apricot, ash

Beech, blackberry, bloom, bramble, buttercup

Carnation, cauliflower, cheetah, clover, colt, crocus


Fern, ferret, fungus

Gooseberry, goldfish



Mint, monarch, minnow


Otter, oyster

Panther, pelican, porcupine, porpoise, pasture, primrose


Thrush, tulip


Willow, weasel, wren


Removed. All these rich, alive, nature words…now gone.


Terry then told us that when the editor of the Dictionary was asked why these words were pulled out, the editor replied, “Because these words no longer have a role in our children’s childhood.”


I was stunned. And sad.


When we don’t have a word to describe something (or some being), doesn’t it make it easier to detach ourselves from it? Or not even have an awareness of that un-named ‘thing’ in the first place?


Without words for buttercup, panther and otter, won’t it be easier for our children, who are already struggling from nature deficit disorder, to never know a buttercup, panther or otter?


Nature words like otter going extinct
Mother and baby otter.


In what realm does a buttercup, panther or otter exist if there is no word to describe it?


Does the editor believe these words are no longer relevant for our children because she thinks these species are on the verge of extinction? Does she think  by the time the children reading the Junior Dictionary reach adulthood that blackberries, porpoises and monarchs will no longer exist? Is her rationale: why bother learning the words of something that won’t be around much longer?


Does the dictionary editor think she is doing our children a favor? Does she believe that not having names for cheetah, pelican and wren will make our children less likely to notice when the last cheetah, pelican and wren leave this earth forever? Or when the last acorn, crocus and pasture get covered over? Will it make them less sad?


Nature Words Replaced


These are some of the words that have been newly added to the Oxford Junior Dictionary:


Allergic, analog

Boisterous, block

Conflict, chatroom, classified, compulsory, creep, cut & paste

Database, donate, dyslexic

MP3 player

Vandalism, voicemail



How long before the editors remove elephant, whale, bluebird and nature from our children’s “relevant” word list?

And what new words will replace those nature words?









If you were inspired by this post, please like and share it:

19 Replies to “Nature Words Go Extinct – You won’t believe why”

  1. How long before people have Zero interaction with others? They will
    be walking around or mostly sitting with AR googles and living in their
    own world. I was at the beach in Santa Barbara and a Humpback mother and
    baby with thrashing and feeding 100 meters offshore. Everyone was so excited and I saw two women that I recognized later and I said to them wasn’t that fantastic and they said what? I said weren’t you on the beach and see the whales? They said No and we saw you there and were there for 45 minutes. And then they both looked at the smartphones in their hands. They were at the beach with all these people yelling and taking photos and they never were aware of anything but themselves and their smartphones

  2. Wow – I have also heard TTW speak – certainly a treat! This news tho is indeed stunning, as you say. Did you double check this? I would also like to spread the word, but would want to verify first – as it seems impossible!!!!

  3. Alison, It is almost impossible to believe. As reported in the Guardian 28 authors, including Atwood, Motion, Michael Morpurgo and Robert Macfarlane, warn that the decision to cut around 50 words connected with nature and the countryside from the 10,000-entry children’s dictionary, is “shocking and poorly considered” in the light of the decline in outdoor play for today’s children. They are calling on publisher Oxford University Press to reverse its decision.
    Spread the word, share this post. That will help with their cause.

  4. Wow, that does sound impossible and makes no sense. So to answer your question, yes, I am shocked. These are actual plants and animals who DO exist so won’t these people be at a disadvantage when they see a pelican?

  5. Gary, I always have a hard time when I see people in nature with ear buds listening to music rather then bird song, or talking on their phone rather then being present. Your comment shows how much we miss when we are not present to all that nature has to share with us. Thanks for your comment. So glad you were witness to this wonderful spectacle.

  6. Lori,

    Do you know if this is going to happen or is the dictionary is already printed? I will forward this through email and FB, but want to add what people can do and to whom to send. Our beautiful amazing planet will evolve a higher level of human species one of these days…or we won’t be included. (Lol, kinda/sorta…)

  7. This actually happened in 2007 and 2012 but it took a while for people to notice the missing words. In the last year the information has gained momentum including a group of authors asking for a new edition which puts the words (or some of them back in). FYI I did not list all of the words removed or added. Hamster, magpie, lark and kingfisher were also removed. The best thing is to share this post. If people want to write to the publishers of the Oxford Junior Dictionary they can. And, read my comment response to Alison which gives you more of what people are doing. Hope that helps. Sharing posts (information) is very helpful to even if you dont have specific actions they can take. Terry told her audience (me) about this but she did not tell us what to do. In my case I am telling all of you about it. The hope is that when people have info and are bothered by that info they often to find their own way to act on it.

  8. I AM AS SHOCKED AS YOU!!! The children of the future I am VERY concerned about also. Especially the new studies that show what is happening to their brains because of all this hand held devices they seem glued to.

  9. How very sad. Another door closing on our beautiful and majestic world. Another door being encouraged to open on a cold, empty and lonely world. Are we, the elders of our race not responsible to keep doors of nature and life open especially for the young generation coming up? How can we do this if access to words are removed from use. Why do words have to be replaced, what’s wrong with a growing dictionary? It’s so scary to see how we can be controlled by something like this.
    It seems we are encouraging the young of our race to become more and more detached, a lack of connection from the beauty and the majestic world we call home? Who is calling these shots??

  10. Thank you everyone for your heartfelt comments. Reading your comments is helping me to process my sadness around this issue. Keep them coming because I think it is probably helping all of us who read this post.

  11. Thanks Lori,

    I sent them a message. Here’s what I wrote in case others want to copy and paste or change…we need an IV of nature vs. having it taken away. Love you and all you do for wild things and places.

    I’m just hearing about the omission of ‘Nature Words’ to make room for the newer technology type words that kids are using. I understand you have several divisions of dictionaries and the nature words can be found there. My request is to keep Nature Words in the primary editions and add the newer words in a seperate edition. People are disconnecting with nature. This is the place where we need to connect, breathe and explore to remain sane in this crazy world. Put the Nature Words back and create a tech version if needed. Thank you.

  12. Thank you so much Angie. That is a great statement and thanks for the link as well for everyone who wants to act on this.

  13. Geeez Lori – this is a great blog but SO scary!!! : (
    And did you know that Terry Tempest Williams is a Ucross alumni? I think you should definitely apply with your next book/project! ; )

  14. What’s really strange about this decision is that many of these animals and plants are commonly seen in (UK) urban environment – buttercups and dandelions in parks and gardens, for example. And other animals delisted occur in so much children’s literature, such as weasels in Wind in the Willows (another word they won’t be able to look up). So who can decide that children don’t need the words to name what they see, or to understand the words they will read?

    On the plus side, today’s children can and will readily look up words on the Internet and don’t really need this publication, which may itself be heading for extinction, even if available online.

  15. Hi Paul, Thank you for your insightful comment. You are so right that because they can use the internet to look things up, the dictionary itself may go extinct. Clever. I had not thought of that. So glad you shared it.

Comments are closed.