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Dictionary.com Drops 'Magic' From Its Definition of 'Powwow'

Dictionary.com updates the definition of "powwow" to no longer include "magic" in description.

In March, Dictionary.com came under fire for its definition of “powwow” after ICTMN reported that the popular dictionary website described a powwow as a ceremony “accompanied by magic.”

Courtesy Dictionary.com

The leading online dictionary site quickly agreed to review and update the definition, stating the new definition would go live in May.

“We agree that the definition was in need of review and we’ve drafted a revision to this entry, which will be live in may when we roll out additional updates on the site,” a Stephanie Cooley, a spokesperson for Dictionary.com, told ICTMN in March.

The new definition states that a powwow is “a large gathering organized by North American Indians for socializing, dancing, singing, and celebrating their culture.”

Courtesy Dictionary.com

“At Dictionary.com we take a descriptivist approach. This means we look and see how any given word is actually being used by speakers of English, and that dictates the updates that are made,” said Jane Solomon, senior content editor and lexicographer at Dictionary.com.

“We use corpus research and wide reading to form a comprehensive understanding of terms we define,” said Solomon. “After reviewing the entry for ‘powwow’ we concluded that the definition did not reflect the history and usage of the term, and so the changes were made in May when we rolled out additional updates to the site.”

“With almost half a million entries, sometimes outdated or erroneous definitions can go overlooked and we depend upon our dedicated users to let us know if they come across any entries in need of review that we’ve missed,” Solomon added.

Solomon did not comment on whether or not any Natives were consulted in reviewing and changing the definition.