Cool is a cool word

cool word

Cool is a cool word. It is extremely elastic (twenty-eight definitions in, but I’m more impressed with its staying power.

The Urban Dictionary has 128 definitions for the word cool, including:

#5. An adjective referring to something that is very good, stylish, or otherwise positive. It is among the most common slang terms used in today’s world.

#16. Perhaps the ultimate slang word.

#32. [A] word that can be used by everyone, young and old and not sound weird, too modern or used [exclusively] by any certain race.

The amazing thing about the word cool is its linguistic longevity. Synonyms for cool (definition #5, very good, stylish, or otherwise positive) have come upon the scene with great speed and regularity over the last fifty plus years. This is probably because coolness has a strong element of exclusivity. As soon as the old and uninitiated latch onto the latest word for cool, it’s not cool anymore, and a new word will quickly emerge to take its place. Here is a partial list of words for cool which have come and gone over the last several decades (in no particular order):

Groovy, neat, hip, def, phat, heavy, bitchin, awesome, swell, sick, wicked, fresh, radical, gnarly, hunky dory, stupid, keen, radical, dope, sweet, fly, key, live, chill, tight, excellent, boss, dandy, hunky dory…

All of these words, usually sooner rather than later, have fallen by the wayside. But not so for cool, which inexplicably lives on and on.

by Richard W. Bray

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