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facebook also Facebook

verb [transitive]

1 to communicate with someone by using the Facebook™ website

2 to search for information about someone by using the Facebook™ website

'Noticing her healthy hair in a picture the other day, I Facebooked her a compliment.'

The Pitt News, Pittsburgh University 1st December 2005

'My curiosity about Lloyd became overwhelming, and within five minutes I had facebooked him and found out where he lived on campus.'

Daily Free Press, Boston University 15th November 2005

There's a new verb emanating from the online universe. Taking inspiration from Google, now not just the name of a search engine but also a genuine 'doing word', the social networking site Facebook has given us the new expression 'to facebook' – a full-blown transitive verb with inflections facebooks, facebooked, and facebooking.

unlike google, which has almost become a generic description for web searching, facebook usually refers specifically to the Facebook website as a mechanism for finding out about someone

To facebook someone is to contact them through the social networking site Facebook. It therefore commonly pops up in examples such as 'That guy I met last night facebooked me this morning' and 'I facebooked her about meeting for lunch'. As the example at the beginning of the article shows, it can also be used ditransitively (with both a direct and an indirect object), so we get examples like "I facebooked him a message about that."

As well as meaning to simply contact someone via Facebook, facebook the verb can also be used to describe the activity of finding out information about someone by using Facebook, as illustrated in the following citation:

'Isabel Owen '06, for example, learned that her current employer Facebooked her before hiring her.'

Wisconsin Alumni Association Dispatches Summer 2006

It is therefore a kind of synonym for google the verb, though unlike google, which has almost become a generic description for web searching, regardless of the particular search engine used, facebook usually refers specifically to the Facebook website as a mechanism for finding out about someone.

In December 2007, it was reported that facebook the verb and Facebook, the trademarked noun referring to the popular social networking site, had been added to the latest edition of the Collins English Dictionary (see Further reading below).

Background – facebook

Facebook is a social networking website which was launched in February 2004 and founded by Mark Zuckerberg, an American IT entrepreneur and Harvard graduate. Facebook looks something like a giant online scrapbook, where friends can exchange messages and photos and opt to join one or more participating networks, such as those based around schools, places of employment or geographical location. Initially, its membership was restricted to Harvard students, but from September 2006 it opened its doors to anyone, and with more than 60 million members, Facebook now represents one of the world's most visited websites.

The name Facebook comes from the related noun facebook (also sometimes freshman facebook), which refers in American English to a printed booklet of college members that is given to students at the start of the academic year so that they can identify one another.

Other notable additions to the English lexicon prompted by Facebook are new senses for the words poke and pimp. Poke, used on the site as both a transitive verb and a noun (i.e. send someone a poke) is a mechanism for getting someone's attention, a kind of virtual nudge. 'Poking' can sometimes have sexual overtones, with the consequence that it is cropping up more widely as a new innuendo. The new sense of pimp, on the other hand, has no such connotations. To pimp your Facebook profile is simply to make it look more attractive by adding photos, graphics, music, etc.

Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 31st March 2008.

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