In Brief
  • The Oxford English Dictionary is looking to ingratiate itself with English speaking Whovians around the globe by adding the term "sonic screwdriver" to its listings.
  • The word is one of nearly 140 new words and phrases added to the OED.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is not just a dusty old tome of words and definitions, it’s actually a living, breathing document that grows as the language it guards changes. From the multitudinous entries with which William Shakespeare bedazzled the language to the buzzworthy truthiness that really makes the kids squee, art and pop culture are a significant force in the evolution of the English language.

The latest update to the dictionary fails to disappoint. Science-fiction fans will be pleased to know that the term “sonic screwdriver” is now an official entry in the OED. It joins other words from the series such as TARDIS, Dalek, and Cyberman.

The 12th Dr's sonic screwdriver. Photo credit: Scott Akerman/Flickr
The 12th Dr’s sonic screwdriver. Photo Credit: Scott Akerman/Flickr

For those who have managed to avoid getting sucked into the Dr. Who universe (Whoniverse, if you will) the OED defines the device as follows:

sonic screwdriver n. chiefly Science Fiction a (hand-held) electronic device which uses sound waves to perform various mechanical and technical functions.

Originally and chiefly in (or with reference to) the British television series Doctor Who

The writers tend to use the screwdriver as a convenient plot device whenever a deus ex machina is in order. The device can unlock doors, detonate bombs, do medical scans, and whatever else the writers decide it can do. However, it doesn’t do wood, so don’t even ask.