The word “woke” has now been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
The OED added the word in its quarterly update in June, with editors also researching to find the earliest examples of the word’s use.
The OED defines woke as follows:
woke, adjective: Originally: well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice; frequently in stay woke.
According to Katherine Martin, head of Oxford’s U.S. dictionaries, before the word became synonymous with being aware it was simply used to mean awake. One of the earliest examples Martin found was for an event in the 1920s called the “Stay Woke Ball” in Harlem, which ran from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Only around the 1960s did the word begin to take on the meaning that it is now associated with.
The most recent and notable use of the word has been in Childish Gambino’s “Redbone,” with the song’s chorus being “But stay woke/Ni**as creepin’.”
The song made an appearance in Jordan Peele’s well-received directorial feature film debut Get Out. Following its release, Peele talked about why he used the track in his movie.
“Well, first of all, I love the ‘Stay Woke’ [lyric] — that’s what this movie is about,” Peele said in an interview with HipHopDX. “I wanted to make sure that this movie satisfied the black horror movie audience’s need for characters to be smart and do things that intelligent and observant people would do.”