Word of the year

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The word(s) of the year, sometimes capitalized as "Word(s) of the Year" and abbreviated "WOTY" (or "WotY"), refers to any of various assessments as to the most important word(s) or expression(s) in the public sphere during a specific year.

The German tradition, Wort des Jahres was started in 1971. The American Dialect Society's Word of the Year is the oldest English-language version, and the only one that is announced after the end of the calendar year, determined by a vote of independent linguists, and not tied to commercial interest.[citation needed] However, various other organizations also announce Words of the Year for a variety of purposes.

American Dialect Society[edit]

Since 1991, the American Dialect Society (ADS) has designated one or more words or terms to be the "Word of the Year" in the United States

At the end of each decade, the society also chooses a Word of the Decade: web for the 1990s, google (as a verb) for the 2000s, and singular they for the 2010s. In 2000, jazz was selected as "Word of the 20th Century", and she as "Word of the Past Millennium".

Selection[edit]

Other candidates for "Word of the Year" have included:

  • 2006: Plutoed beat "climate canary" (something whose poor health indicates a looming environmental catastrophe) in a run-off vote for the 2006 word of the year. Other words in the running were flog (an advertisement disguised as a blog or web log), The Decider (a political catchphrase said by former United States President George W. Bush), "prohibited liquids" (fluids that cannot be transported by passengers on airplanes), and macaca (an American citizen treated as an alien)
  • 2007: Among the contenders were green- (a designation of environmental concern, as in greenwashing), surge (an increase in troops in a war zone, as in the Iraq War troop surge of 2007), Facebook (all parts of speech), waterboarding (an interrogation technique in which the subject is immobilized and doused with water to simulate drowning), Googlegänger (a portmanteau of Google and Doppelgänger, meaning a person with your name who shows up when you google yourself), and wide stance, "to have a —" (to be hypocritical or to express two conflicting points of view, in reference to Senator Larry Craig after his 2007 arrest at an airport)[31]
  • 2010: Nom lost in a run-off with app[32]
  • 2011: 99%, 99 percenters and the acronym FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) lost in a run-off with occupy[33]
  • 2012: Other nominees were YOLO (an acronym for "You Only Live Once," often used sarcastically or self-deprecatingly), fiscal cliff (the threat of spending cuts and tax increases looming over end-of-year budget negotiations), Gangnam style (the trendy style of Seouls Gangnam district, as used in the Korean pop song of the same name), marriage equality (legal recognition of same-sex marriage), and 47 percent (a claimed portion of the population that does not pay federal income tax).
  • 2013: slash: used as a coordinating conjunction to mean "and/or" (e.g., "come and visit slash stay") or "so" ("I love that place, slash can we go there?"), twerk: A mode of dance that involves vigorous booty-shaking and booty-thrusting, usually with the feet planted, Obamacare: term for the Affordable Care Act that has moved from pejorative to matter-of-fact shorthand and selfie: a photo taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone and shared on social media.
  • 2014: bae: a sweetheart or romantic partner, columbusing: cultural appropriation, especially the act of a white person claiming to discover things already known to minority cultures, even: deal with or reconcile difficult situations or emotions (from "I can't even"), manspreading: of a man, to sit with one's legs wide on public transit in a way that blocks other seats.

Categories[edit]

In addition to the "Word of the Year", the society also selects words in other categories that vary from year to year:

Most useful[edit]

  • 2008: Barack Obama (specifically, the use of both names as combining forms, such as ObamaMania or Obamacare)
  • 2009: fail (noun or interjection used when something is egregiously unsuccessful)
  • 2010: nom (onomatopoetic form connoting eating, esp. pleasurably)
  • 2011: humblebrag (expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter)
  • 2012: -(po)calypse, -(ma)geddon (hyperbolic combining forms for various catastrophes)
  • 2013: because introducing a noun, adjective, or other part of speech (e.g., "because reasons," "because awesome").
  • 2014: even (deal with or reconcile difficult situations or emotions, from "I can't even")
  • 2015: they (gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, particularly as a non binary identifier)
  • 2016: gaslight (psychologically manipulate a person into questioning their own sanity)
  • 2017: die by suicide (a variant of “to commit suicide” that does not suggest a criminal act)

Most creative[edit]

  • 2008: recombobulation area: an area at General Mitchell International Airport in which passengers that have passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order.
  • 2009: Dracula sneeze: covering one's mouth with the crook of one's elbow when sneezing, seen as similar to popular portrayals of the vampire Dracula, in which he hides the lower half of his face with a cape.
  • 2010: prehab: preemptive enrollment in a rehab facility to prevent relapse of an abuse problem.
  • 2011: Mellencamp: a woman who has aged out of being a "cougar", named after John Cougar Mellencamp.
  • 2012: gate lice: airline passengers who crowd around a gate, waiting to board.
  • 2013: catfish: to misrepresent oneself online, especially as part of a romantic deception.
  • 2014: columbusing: cultural appropriation, especially the act of a white person claiming to discover things already known to minority cultures.
  • 2015: ammosexual: someone who loves firearms in a fetishistic manner.
  • 2016: laissez-fairydust: magical effect brought upon by laissez-faire economics.

Most unnecessary[edit]

  • 2008: moofing (a PR firm-created term for working on the go with a laptop and cell phone)
  • 2009: sea kittens (attempted rebranding of fish by PETA)
  • 2010: refudiate (blend word of refute and repudiate used by Sarah Palin on Twitter)
  • 2011: bi-winning (term used by Charlie Sheen to describe himself pridefully, dismissing accusations of being bipolar)
  • 2012: legitimate rape (type of rape that Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin claimed rarely results in pregnancy)
  • 2013: sharknado (a tornado full of sharks, as featured in the Syfy Channel movie of that name)
  • 2014: baeless: without a romantic partner (lacking a bae).
  • 2015: manbun: man's hairstyle pulled up in a bun.

Most outrageous[edit]

  • 2008: terrorist fist jab (a phrase for a fist bump coined by Fox News newscaster E. D. Hill)
  • 2009: death panel (a supposed committee of doctors and/or bureaucrats who would decide which patients would and wouldn't receive treatment)
  • 2010: gate rape (pejorative term for invasive new airport pat-down procedure)
  • 2011: assholocracy (rule by obnoxious multi-millionaires)
  • 2012: legitimate rape (type of rape that Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin claimed rarely results in pregnancy)
  • 2013: underbutt (the underside of buttocks, made visible by certain shorts or underwear)
  • 2014: second-amendment: v. to kill (someone) with a gun, used ironically by gun control supporters.
  • 2015: fuckboy, fuckboi: derogatory term for a man who behaves objectionably or promiscuously.

Most euphemistic[edit]

  • 2008: scooping technician (a person whose job it is to pick up dog poop)
  • 2009: hike the Appalachian trail (to go away to have sex with one's illicit lover, from a statement released by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford to cover for visiting his Argentinean mistress)
  • 2010: kinetic event (Pentagon term for violent attacks on troops in Afghanistan)
  • 2011: job creator (a person responsible for economic growth and employment)
  • 2012: self-deportation (policy of encouraging illegal immigrants to return voluntarily to their home countries)
  • 2013: least untruthful (involving the smallest necessary lie, used by intelligence director James Clapper)
  • 2014: EIT: abbreviation for the already euphemistic "enhanced interrogation technique."
  • 2015: Netflix and chill: sexual come-on masked as a suggestion to watch Netflix and relax."

Most likely to succeed[edit]

  • 2008: shovel-ready (description of infrastructure projects that can be started quickly, when funds become available)
  • 2009: twenty-ten (pronunciation of the year 2010, as opposed to saying "two thousand ten" or "two thousand and ten")
  • 2010: trend (verb for exhibiting a burst of online buzz)
  • 2011: cloud (online space for the large-scale processing and storage of data)
  • 2012: marriage equality (legal recognition of same-sex marriage)
  • 2013: binge-watch (to consume vast quantities of a single show or series of visual entertainment in one sitting)
  • 2014: salty: exceptionally bitter, angry, or upset.
  • 2015: ghost: (verb) abruptly end a relationship by cutting off communication, especially online.

Least likely to succeed[edit]

  • 2008: PUMA (an acronym for "Party Unity My Ass" and later, "People United Means Action" as used by Democrats who were disaffected after Hillary Clinton failed to secure a sufficient number of delegates)
  • 2009: Naughties, Aughties, Oughties, etc. (alternative names for the decade 2000–2009)
  • 2010: culturomics (research project from Google analyzing the history of language and culture)
  • 2011: brony (an adult male fan of the "My Little Pony" cartoon franchise)
  • 2012: phablet (mid-sized electronic device, between a smartphone and a tablet)
  • 2013: Thanksgivukkah (confluence of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah that will not be repeated for another 70,000 years)
  • 2014: platisher: online media publisher that also serves as a platform for creating content.
  • 2015: sitbit: device that rewards sedentary lifestyle (play on Fitbit fitness tracker).

Special categories[edit]

  • Election-Related Word (2008): maverick (a person who is beholden to no one, widely used by the Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin)
  • Fan Words (2010): gleek (a fan of the TV show Glee)
  • Occupy Words (2011): the 99%, 99 percenters (those held to be at a financial or political disadvantage to the top moneymakers, the one-percenters)
  • Election Words (2012): binders (full of women) (a term used by Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate to describe the resumes of female job candidates that he consulted as governor of Massachusetts)
  • Most Productive (2013): -shaming: (from slut-shaming) type of public humiliation (fat-shaming, pet-shaming).
  • Most Notable Hashtag (2014): #blacklivesmatter: protest over blacks killed at the hands of police (esp. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in Staten Island).

Australian National Dictionary Centre[edit]

The Australian National Dictionary Centre has announced a Word of the Year each December since 2006. The word is chosen by the editorial staff, and is selected on the basis of having come to some prominence in the Australian social and cultural landscape during the year.[34] The Word of the Year is often reported in the media as being Australia's word of the year,[35][36] but the word is not always an Australian word.

YEAR
2006 podcast
2007 me-tooism
2008 GFC
2009 twitter
2010 vuvuzela
2011
2012 green-on-blue
2013 bitcoin
2014 shirtfront
2015 sharing economy
2016 democracy sausage
2017 Kwaussie
2018 Canberra bubble
2019 Voice

Collins English Dictionary[edit]

The Collins English Dictionary has announced a Word of the Year every year since 2013, and prior to this, announced a new 'word of the month' each month in 2012. Published in Glasgow, UK, Collins English Dictionary has been publishing English dictionaries since 1819.[37]

Toward the end of each calendar year, Collins release a shortlist of notable words or those that have come to prominence in the previous 12 months. The shortlist typically comprises ten words, though in 2014 only four words were announced as the Word of the Year shortlist.

The Collins Words of the Year are selected by the Collins Dictionary team across Glasgow and London, consisting of lexicographers, editorial, marketing, and publicity staff, though previously the selection process has been open to the public.

Whilst the word is not required to be new to feature, the appearance of words in the list is often supported by usage statistics and cross-reference against Collins' extensive corpus to understand how language may have changed or developed in the previous year. The Collins Word of the Year is also not restricted to UK language usage, and words are often chosen that apply internationally as well, for example, fake news in 2017.[38]

Year Word of the Year Definition Shortlist
2013 Geek [39] If you call someone, usually a man or boy, a geek, you are saying in an unkind way that they are stupid, awkward, or weak.[40] Twerking [41]

Bitcoin [42]

Phablet [43]

Plebgate [44]

Fracker [45]

Cybernat [46]

Thigh gap [47]

Olinguito [48]

Black Friday [49]

Payday lending [50]

Harlem Shake [51]

2014 Photobomb [52] If you photobomb someone, you spoil a photograph of them by stepping in front of them as the photograph is taken, often doing

something silly such as making a funny face.[53]

Tinder [54]

Bakeoff [55]

Normcore [56]

Devo Max [57]

2015 Binge-watch [58] If you binge-watch a television series, you watch several episodes one after another in a short time.[59] Dadbod [60]

Shaming [61]

Corbynomics [62]

Clean eating [63]

Ghosting [64]

Swipe [65]

Contactless [66]

Manspreading [67]

Transgender [68]

2016 Brexit [69] The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union in March 2019.[70] Hygge [71]

Mic drop [72]

Trumpism [73]

Throw shade [74]

Sharenting [75]

Snowflake generation [76]

Dude food [77]

Uberization [78]

JOMO [79]

2017 Fake news [80] False, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.[81] Antifa [82]

Corbynmania [83]

Cuffing season [84]

Echo chamber [85]

Fidget spinner [86]

Gender-fluid [87]

Gig economy [88]

Insta [89]

Unicorn [90]

2018 Single-use[91] Made to be used once only.[92] Backstop[91][93]

Floss[91][93]

Gammon[91][93]

Gaslight[91][93]

MeToo[91][93]

Plogging[91][93]

VAR[91][93]

Vegan[91][93]

Whitewash[91][93]

2019 Climate strike[94] Bopo[95]

Cancel

Deepfake

Double down

Entryist

Hopepunk

Influencer

Nonbinary

Rewilding

Macquarie Dictionary[edit]

The Macquarie Dictionary, which is the dictionary of Australian English, updates the online dictionary each year with new words, phrases, and definitions. These can be viewed on their website.[96]

Each year the editors select a short-list of new words added to the dictionary and invite the public to vote on their favourite. The public vote is held in January and results in the People's Choice winner. The most influential word of the year is also selected by the Word of the Year Committee which is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence. The Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, Susan Butler, is also a committee member. The Committee meets annually to select the overall winning words.

The following is the list of winning words since the Macquarie Word of the Year first began in 2006:

Year Committee's Choice People's Choice
2006 muffin top (No overall winner. See Macquarie website for category winners)
2007 pod slurping password fatigue
2008 toxic debt flashpacker
2010 googleganger shockumentary
2011 burqini fracking
2012 phantom vibration syndrome First World problem
2013 infovore[97] onesie
2014 mansplain[98] shareplate
2015 captain's call[99] captain's call[100]
2017 milkshake duck[101][102] framily[103]
2018 me too[104][105] single-use[106]
2019 cancel culture robodebt

Merriam-Webster[edit]

The lists of Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year (for each year) are ten-word lists published annually by the American dictionary-publishing company Merriam-Webster, Inc., which feature the ten words of the year from the English language. These word lists started in 2003 and have been published at the end of each year. At first, Merriam-Webster determined its contents by analyzing page hits and popular searches on its website. Since 2006, the list has been determined by an online poll and by suggestions from visitors to the website.[107]

The following is the list of words that became Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year since 2003:[108]

Oxford[edit]

Oxford University Press, which publishes the Oxford English Dictionary and many other dictionaries, announces an Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year and an Oxford Dictionaries US Word of the Year; sometimes these are the same word. The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months but it does need to have become prominent or notable during that time. There is no guarantee that the Word of the Year will be included in any Oxford dictionary. The Oxford Dictionaries Words of the Year are selected by editorial staff from each of the Oxford dictionaries. The selection team is made up of lexicographers and consultants to the dictionary team, and editorial, marketing, and publicity staff.[110]

Year UK Word of the Year US Word of the Year
2004 chav
2005 sudoku podcast
2006 bovvered carbon-neutral
2008 credit crunch hypermiling
2009 simples (Compare the Meerkat catchphrase) unfriend
2010 big society refudiate
2011 squeezed middle
2012 omnishambles GIF (noun)
2013 selfie[111]
2014 vape[112]
2015 😂 (Face With Tears of Joy, Unicode: U+1F602, part of emoji)[113]
2016 post-truth [114]
2017 youthquake
2018 toxic[115]
2019 climate emergency[116]

Grant Barrett[edit]

Since 2004, lexicographer Grant Barrett has published a words-of-the-year list, usually in the New York Times, though he does not name a winner.

Dictionary.com[edit]

In 2010, Dictionary.com announced its first word of the year, ‘change’, and has done so in December every year since.[117] The selection is based on search trends on the site throughout the year and the news events that drive them. [118]

The following is the list of annual words since beginning with the first in 2010:[117]

Similar word lists[edit]

A Word a Year[edit]

Since 2004, Susie Dent, an English lexicographer has published a column, "A Word a Year", in which she chooses a single word from each of the last 101 years to represent preoccupations of the time. Susie Dent notes that the list is subjective.[120][121][122] Each year, she gives a completely different set of words.

Since Susie Dent works for the Oxford University Press, her words of choice are often incorrectly referred to as "Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year".

Other countries[edit]

In Germany, a Wort des Jahres has been selected since 1972 (for year 1971) by the Society of the German Language.[123] In addition, an Unwort des Jahres (Un-word of the year or No-no Word of the Year) has been nominated since 1991, for a word or phrase in public speech deemed insulting or socially inappropriate (such as "Überfremdung").[124] Similar selections are made each year since 1999 in Austria, 2002 in Liechtenstein, and 2003 in Switzerland.

In Denmark, the Word of the year has been selected since 2008 by Danmarks Radio and Dansk Sprognævn.

In Japan, the Kanji of the year (kotoshi no kanji) has been selected since 1995. Kanji are adopted Chinese characters in Japanese language. Japan also runs an annual word of the year contest called " U-Can New and Trendy Word Grand Prix" (U-Can shingo, ryūkōgo taishō) sponsored by Jiyu Kokuminsha. Both the kanji and word/phrases of the year are often reflective of Japanese current events and attitudes. For example, in 2011 following the Fukushima power plant disaster, the frustratingly enigmatic phrase used by Japanese officials before the explosion regarding the possibility of meltdown - "the possibility of recriticality is not zero" (Sairinkai no kanōsei zero de wa nai) - became the top phrase of the year. In the same year, the kanji indicating 'bond' (i.e. familial bond or friendship) became the kanji of the year, expressing the importance of collectiveness in the face of disaster.[125]

In Norway, the Word of the year poll is carried out since 2012.

In Portugal, the Word of the year poll is carried out since 2009.

In Russia, the Word of the year poll is carried out since 2007.

In Ukraine, the Word of the year poll is carried out since 2013.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • John Ayto, "A Century of New Words", Series: Oxford Paperback Reference (2007) ISBN 0-19-921369-0
  • John Ayto, "Twentieth Century Words", Oxford University Press (1999) ISBN 0-19-860230-8

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