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"Esquivalience" is a fictitious entry in the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD), which was designed and included to protect copyright of the publication.

The word was invented by Christine Lindberg, one of the editors of the NOAD[1] and discovered by Henry Alford.[2]

It was leaked that the dictionary had put in a fake word in the letter e and Alford set out to find the word. It was discovered after review of a short list by several experts. When the editor, Erin McKean, was contacted she admitted that it was indeed a fake word and had been in since the first edition, in order to protect the copyright of the CD-ROM edition.

When fictitious matter is inserted in official documents it can be referred to as a paper town. Map makers used paper towns (a fake town on their map) for copyright reasons just as "the New Oxford American Dictionary" did with the word "esquivalience".

The word is defined as "the willful avoidance of one's official responsibilities".

The fake entry apparently ensnared, which included an entry for it (that has since been removed) that was attributed to Webster's New Millennium Dictionary, both of which are owned by the private company Lexico. Possibly due to its licensing of Oxford dictionaries, Google Dictionary included the word, listing three meanings and giving usage examples.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nathan Bierma (September 21, 2005). "Dictionary sets a trap with an invented word". Chicago Tribune. 
  2. ^ Henry Alford (August 29, 2005). "Not a Word". New Yorker.