Analyzing Temporal Relationships between Trending Terms on Twitter and Urban Dictionary Activity

Steve Wilson, Walid Magdy, Barbara McGillivray, Gareth Tyson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


As an online, crowd-sourced, open English-language slang dictionary, the Urban Dictionary platform contains a wealth of opinions, jokes, and definitions of terms, phrases, acronyms, and more. However, it is unclear exactly how activity on this platform relates to larger conversations happening elsewhere on the web, such as discussions on larger, more popular social media platforms. In this research, we study the temporal activity trends on Urban Dictionary and provide the first analysis of how this activity relates to content being discussed on a major social network: Twitter. By collecting the whole of Urban Dictionary, as well as a large sample of tweets over seven years, we explore the connections between the words and phrases that are defined and searched for on Urban Dictionary and the content that is talked about on Twitter. Through a series of cross-correlation calculations, we identify cases in which Urban Dictionary activity closely reflects the larger conversation happening on Twitter. Then, we analyze the types of terms that have a stronger connection to discussions on Twitter, finding that Urban Dictionary activity that is positively correlated with Twitter is centered around terms related to memes, popular public figures, and offline events. Finally, we explore the relationship between periods of time when terms are trending on Twitter and the corresponding activity on Urban Dictionary, revealing that new definitions are more likely to be added to Urban Dictionary for terms that are currently trending on Twitter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWebSci '20: 12th ACM Conference on Web Science
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781450379892
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2020
Event12th ACM Web Science Conference 2020 - Southampton, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Jul 202010 Jul 2020
Conference number: 12


Conference12th ACM Web Science Conference 2020
Abbreviated titleWebSci 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • social media
  • temporal analysis
  • Twitter
  • urban dictionary


Dive into the research topics of 'Analyzing Temporal Relationships between Trending Terms on Twitter and Urban Dictionary Activity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this