Time Traveler by Merriam-Webster: Search Words by First Known Use Date

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Merriam Webster’s Time Traveler is a website that shows you when a particular word was used in print or written form for the first time. You just need to select the year and Time Traveler will show you the words that were first recorded in that year.

Merriam-Webster is America’s most popular and trusted online dictionary for definitions, pronunciations, and meanings of English words. Most of the dictionary entries in Merriam-Webster display a date titled ‘First Known Use’ that gives an idea of the date (year) of the earliest recorded use of that word. This has now developed into a Time Traveler where you can select any year and list the words that were first used in written form that year.

Many of the words in English Language came from formal usage during the eras of Old and Middle English and have slowly evolved into the present stage of Modern English. Imagine a scenario where you need to find out the evolution of the language from a specific year to another year. Time Traveler does the same for you.

The site goes back to the 13th century and earlier, hence it is possible to verify many older entries in addition to the newer ones. For example, the word, herbal was first used in print in 1526. Go to the year 2021 and you will not be surprised to find the words Omicron variant and Delta variant.

One should note over here that Time Traveler doesn’t consider, for how long a specific word was already being used as a part of the local language or dialect. It’s based on when that word was written / printed / published in an article, story, or journal.

Once you choose a certain year and the words are listed, you can click on any of them to display their meaning, sentence usage and more.

How it Works:

1. There is nothing much to learn here. Navigate to Time Traveler using the link provided at the end of this article.

2. Select the year from the drop or scroll down and choose the year. All the words that were fist used in print that year will be displayed.



3. Click on any word to get its meaning and usage.

4. Click on the ‘Share’ icon at the end of each year to share the results of first-used words for that year on Facebook and twitter.


Time Traveler is a very interesting and unique tool to study the development and evolution of English. Language impacts and influences the way we identify and perceive our world. Hence its really worth it, if we could learn and understand how our views, opinions, interpretations etc. were shaped as the years passed by.

Click here to navigate to Time Traveler and start researching. Its super-fun. Select your birth year and find out the words that first appeared the year you were born.

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