August 28, 2014

[The following text appears within a diagram. Please see your hardcopy for actual diagram.]

YEAR OF FIRST KNOWN USE OF WORD TO MEAN EXCELLENT

Special 1225

Gay 1375

Golden 1400

Fine 1440

1500

Jolly 1548

1600

Excellent 1604

Tight 1607

Fabulous 1609

Nuts 1617

Prime 1637

Spanking 1666

1700

Capital 1713

Immense 1762

Ripping 1776

Dandy 1794

1800

Neat 1806

Swell 1810

Great 1818

Slick 1833

Boss 1836

From the Dutch baas, for uncle, the term for master came to mean esteemed, masterly

Hot 1845

Stunning 1849

Spiffy 1853

Nifty 1865

All right 1869

Choice 1880

Stellar 1883

Jimdandy 1885

Smooth 1893

A descriptor for “free from lumps” expanded to mean pleasant, then superior

Fly 1896

Peachy 1900

Smashing 1911

Wicked 1920

Sweet 1924

Dynamite 1926

Greek for force, this explosive word became shorthand for intense and then impressive

Ace 1929

Cool 1933

Solid 1935

Groovy 1937

Neato 1951

Badass 1955

All that 1962

Smoking 1964

Radical 1964

Bad 1971

Bomb 1973

Rad 1976

Killer 1979

Awesome 1980

Epic 1983

Latin for narrative, epic came to describe events worthy of a story and then anything remarkable

Crucial 1987

Bangin’ 1990

Beast 1997

Chronic 1998

SOURCES: OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY; GREEN’S DICTIONARY OF SLANG

GRAPHICS BY: EMILY BARONE, APRIL BELL, KELLY CONNIFF, ANDRÉA FORD, SAM FRIZELL, MARTIN GEE, DAVID JOHNSON, HEATHER JONES, JACK LINSHI, DAN MACSAI, GIRI NATHAN, PRATHEEK REBALA, MARIE TOBIAS, LON TWEETEN, MATT VELLA, CHRIS WILSON, AND JUSTIN WORLAND

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This appears in the September 08, 2014 issue of TIME.

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