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Word of the year

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Word of the year

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 oldest of these, 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 interests, is the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year. However, various other organizations also announce Words of the Year for promotional purposes.

The most popular and overused Words of the Year tend to appear on lists of words to avoid, such as the List of 'banished' words and phrases from Lake Superior State University and other organizations.


  • American Dialect Society 1
    • Selection 1.1
    • Categories 1.2
      • Most Useful 1.2.1
      • Most Creative 1.2.2
      • Most Unnecessary 1.2.3
      • Most Outrageous 1.2.4
      • Most Euphemistic 1.2.5
      • Most Likely to Succeed 1.2.6
      • Least Likely to Succeed 1.2.7
      • Special Categories 1.2.8
  • English dictionaries 2
    • Macquarie Dictionary 2.1
    • Merriam-Webster 2.2
    • Oxford 2.3
  • Grant Barrett 3
  • Global Language Monitor 4
    • Words 4.1
    • Phrases 4.2
    • Names 4.3
    • 2000–2009 decade words and phrases 4.4
  • Similar word lists 5
    • A Word a Year 5.1
    • German Wort des Jahres 5.2
  • See also 6
  • Further reading 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

American Dialect Society

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:

The society also chose a "Word of the 1990s" (web), "Word of the 20th Century" (jazz), "Word of the Past Millennium" (she), and "Word of the Decade (2000–2009)" (google as a verb).


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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Seoul’s 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).
  • 2011: 99%, 99 percenters and the acronym FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) lost in a run-off with occupy[15]
  • 2010: Nom lost in a run-off with app[16]
  • 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)[17]
  • 2006: Plutoed beat "macaca (an American citizen treated as an alien)


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

Most Useful

  • 2014: even deal with or reconcile difficult situations or emotions (from “I can’t even”).
  • 2013: because introducing a noun, adjective, or other part of speech (e.g., "because reasons," "because awesome").
  • 2012: -(po)calypse, -(ma)geddon (hyperbolic combining forms for various catastrophes)
  • 2011: humblebrag (expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter)
  • 2010: nom (onomatopoetic form connoting eating, esp. pleasurably)
  • 2009: fail (noun or interjection used when something is egregiously unsuccessful)
  • 2008: Barack Obama (specifically, the use of both names as combining forms, such as ObamaMania or Obamacare)

Most Creative

  • 2014: columbusing: cultural appropriation, especially the act of a white person claiming to discover things already known to minority cultures.
  • 2013: catfish: to misrepresent oneself online, especially as part of a romantic deception.
  • 2012: gate lice (airline passengers who crowd around a gate, waiting to board)
  • 2011: Mellencamp (a woman who has aged out of being a “cougar”, named after John Cougar Mellencamp)
  • 2010: prehab (preemptive enrollment in a rehab facility to prevent relapse of an abuse problem)
  • 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)
  • 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)

Most Unnecessary

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

Most Outrageous

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

Most Euphemistic

  • 2014: EIT: abbreviation for the already euphemistic “enhanced interrogation technique.”
  • 2013: least untruthful (involving the smallest necessary lie, used by intelligence director James Clapper)
  • 2012: self-deportation (policy of encouraging illegal immigrants to return voluntarily to their home countries)
  • 2011: job creator (a person responsible for economic growth and employment)
  • 2010: kinetic event (Pentagon term for violent attacks on troops in Afghanistan)
  • 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)
  • 2008: scooping technician (a person whose job it is to pick up dog poop)

Most Likely to Succeed

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

Least Likely to Succeed

  • 2014: platisher: online media publisher that also serves as a platform for creating content.
  • 2013: Thanksgivukkah (confluence of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah that will not be repeated for another 70,000 years)
  • 2012: phablet (mid-sized electronic device, between a smartphone and a tablet)
  • 2011: brony (an adult male fan of the "My Little Pony" cartoon franchise)
  • 2010: culturomics (research project from Google analyzing the history of language and culture)
  • 2009: Naughties, Aughties, Oughties, etc. (alternative names for the decade 2000–2009)
  • 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)

Special Categories

  • 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).
  • Most Productive (2013): -shaming: (from slut-shaming) type of public humiliation (fat-shaming, pet-shaming).
  • 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)
  • Occupy Words (2011): the 99%, 99 percenters (those held to be at a financial or political disadvantage to the top moneymakers, the one-percenters)
  • Fan Words (2010): gleek (a fan of the TV show Glee)
  • 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)

English dictionaries

Macquarie Dictionary

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.

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 in early February 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
2014 mansplain shareplate
2013 infovore onesie
2012 phantom vibration syndrome First World problem
2011 burqini fracking
2010 googleganger shockumentary
2009 shovel-ready tweet
2008 toxic debt flashpacker
2007 pod slurping password fatigue
2006 muffin top (No overall winner. See Macquarie website for category winners)


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.[18]

The following is the list of words that became Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year since 2003:[19]


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.[20]

Year UK Word of the Year US Word of the Year
2014 Vape[21]
2013 selfie[22]
2012 omnishambles GIF (verb)
2011 squeezed middle
2010 big society refudiate
2009 simples unfriend
2008 credit crunch hypermiling
2007 carbon footprint locavore
2006 bovvered carbon-neutral
2005 sudoku podcast
2004 chav

Grant Barrett

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.

  • 2013 in New York Times, also a more complete list
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006
  • 2005
  • 2004

Global Language Monitor

The Global Language Monitor (GLM) has been selecting the Top Words of the Year since 2000.[23] GLM states the Top Words, Phrases, and Names of the Year provide a history of each year since 2000 through English-language word usage. To select these words and phrases, it uses a claimed statistical analysis of language usage in the worldwide print and electronic media, the Internet, and the blogosphere, as well as social media, though several linguists and lexicographers have charged that its mathematical methodologies are flawed. GLM announced their 2013 Top Words, Phrases and Names on November 5, 2013, thus launching the WOTY season, which will conclude with the ADA’s announcement in early January 2014.[24]


2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
404 Apocalypse/Armageddon occupy Spillcam twitter
Fail deficit fracking Vuvuzela Obama-
Hashtag Olympiad drone The Narrative H1N1
@Pontifex Bak'tun Non-veg Refudiate stimulus
The Optic meme Kummerspeck Guido and Guidette vampire
Surveillance MOOC Haboob Deficit 2.0
Drones The Cloud 3Q Snowmagedden/Snowpocalypse deficit
Deficit omnishambles Trustafarians 3-D hadron
Sequestration Frankenstorm (The Other) 99 Shellacking healthcare
Emancipate obesogenic simplexity transparency
Filibuster hen outrage
Nano- derecho bonus
Twerking hashtag unemployed
Deadlock drones foreclosure
Franken- fracking cartel
Meme phobes Twenty-ten
(spoken only)
Stalemate superfood Obamacare
The Cloud The 47
Phony YOLO
Comet adorkable


2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Toxic Politics Gangnam Style Arab Spring Anger and Rage King of Pop
Federal Shutdown Global warming/climate change Royal Wedding Climate change Obamamania
Global warming/climate change Fiscal cliff Anger and rage The Great Recession Climate change
Federal Deficit The Deficit Climate change Teachable moment swine flu
Tread Lightly God particle The Great Recession Tea Party Too Large to Fail
Boston strong Rogue nukes Tahrir Square Ambush Marketing cloud computing
Marathon Bombing Near-Earth Asteroid Linear no-threshold Lady Gaga public option
Chemical Weapons Binders full of women Bunga bunga Man up Jai Ho!
All-time High Arab Spring ‘How’s that working out for you?’ Pass the bill to be able to see what’s in it Mayan calendar
Rogue nukes solar max “Make no mistake about it!” Obamamania God particle
Near-Earth Asteroid big data Don’t Touch My Junk
Arab Spring ethical/sustainable fashion
Solar Maximum toxic politics
big data Citius, Altius, Fortius
Ethical/Sustainable Fashion War on Women


2013 2012 2011
Pope Francis Newtown and Malala Yousafzai
Steve Jobs
ObamaCare Xi Jinping Osama bin-Laden & Seal Team 6
NSA Kate Middleton Fukushima
Edward Snowden Barack Obama Mohamed Bouazizi
Kate Middleton Mitt Romney Hu Jintao
IRS London Olympics Kate Middleton
Ted Cruz Higgs boson Muammar Gaddafi
Chris Christie Europe
Barack Obama
Marathon Bombers Felix Baumgartner PIIGS
Malala Yousafzai Senkaku Islands Yaroslavl Lokomotiv
Xi Jinping John Roberts
Barack Obama Bibi
(Benjamin Netanyahu)
Hassan Rouhani Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Sochi Olympics Christopher Stevens
Angela Merkel

2000–2009 decade words and phrases


  1. global warming (2000), rated highly from day one of the decade
  2. 9/11 (2001), for the September 11 attacks
  3. Obama- (2008), the U.S. President's name as a root word or word stem
  4. bailout (2008), The Bank Bailout was but Act One of the crisis
  5. evacuee/refugee (2005), After Katrina, refugees became evacuees
  6. derivative (2007), financial instrument or analytical tool that engendered the Meltdown
  7. google (2007), from Google Search, after word 'googol'
  8. surge (2007), the strategy that effectively ended the Iraq War
  9. Chinglish (2005), Chinese-English hybrid language growing larger as Chinese influence expands
  10. tsunami (2004), from Southeast Asian Tsunami which took 250,000 lives
  11. H1N1 (2009), a strain of the Swine Flu
  12. default (2007), subprime mortgages linked to financial troubles
  13. (2000), the bubble of computer layoffs, before ecommerce regrew
  14. Y2K (2000), from the Y2K bug of computers mishandling dates after 1999
  15. George W. Bush
  16. chad (2000), paper chips from voter punched cards in the 2000 Florida election recount
  17. twitter (2008), with a quarter of a billion references on Google
  18. WMD (2002), Iraq’s supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction
  19. blog (2003), first called "weblog" which contracted into "blog"
  20. texting (2004), sending text messages (not voice recordings) over cell phones
  21. slumdog (2008), child inhabitants of Mumbai's slums
  22. sustainable (2006), key to "Green" living where natural resources are never depleted
  23. Brokeback (2004), new term for 'gay' from the Hollywood film Brokeback Mountain
  24. quagmire (2004), as would the Iraq War end up like Vietnam, another "quagmire"?
  25. truthiness (2006), Stephen Colbert's word for truth based on intuition not evidence or reason

Also worth noting: 'embedded' (2003), to embed reporters with US troops.


  1. climate change (2000), Green words in every form dominate the decade
  2. Financial Tsunami (2008), one-quarter of the world’s wealth vanishes seemingly overnight
  3. ground zero (2001), site of 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City
  4. War on Terror (2001), G.W. Bush administration’s response to 9/11
  5. Weapons of Mass Destruction (2003), Bush’s WMD never found in Iraq or the Syrian desert
  6. swine flu (2008), specifically the H1N1 strain of flu virus
  7. "Let’s Roll!" (2001), Todd Beamer's last words heard before Flight 93 crashed into the PA countryside
  8. Red State/Blue State (2004), Republican (red) or Democratic (blue) control of U.S. states
  9. carbon footprint (2007), the amount of CO2 an activity produces
  10. shock-and-awe (2003), initial strategy of Iraq War to terrorize Iraqi forces
  11. Ponzi scheme (2009), when Madoff's rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul strategy reaped billions & heartache
  12. Category 4 (2005), for Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Wilma
  13. King of Pop (2000), Elvis was the King, MJ the King (of Pop)
  14. "Yes, we can!" (2008), Obama’s winning campaign slogan
  15. "Jai Ho!" (2008), shout of joy (and song) from film Slumdog Millionaire
  16. "Out of the Mainstream" (2003), complaint about any opposition’s political platform
  17. cloud computing (2007), using the Internet (or other network) as a large computational device
  18. threat fatigue (2004), one too many terrorist threat alerts
  19. same-sex marriage (2003), marriage of gay or lesbian couples

Similar word lists

A Word a Year

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.[26][27][28] 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".

German Wort des Jahres

In Germany, a Wort des Jahres has been selected since 1972 by the Society of the German Language.[29] In addition, an Unwort des Jahres (Unword 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").[30] Similar selections are made each year since 1999 in Austria, 2002 in Liechtenstein and 2003 in Switzerland.

See also

Further reading

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


  1. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2002-01-13. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  2. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2003-01-13. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  3. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2004-01-13. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  4. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2005-01-07. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  5. ^ American Dialect Society
  6. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2007-01-05. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  7. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2008-01-04. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  8. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  9. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2010-01-08. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  10. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  11. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2012-11-13. 
  12. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  13. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2014-01-03. 
  14. ^ "American Dialect Society". 2014-01-09. Retrieved 2014-01-10. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Merriam-Webster launches 'Word of the Year' online poll".  
  19. ^ "Word of the Year Archive". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year: Frequently Asked Questions (viewed Nov. 20, 2013).
  21. ^ Grisham, Lori (18 November 2014). "Oxford names 'vape' 2014 Word of the Year".  
  22. ^ The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is... (viewed Nov. 20, 2013).
  23. ^ [1] Top Words of the Decade
  24. ^ [2]
  25. ^ Goldstein, Katherine (2009-11-19). "Top Words Of The Decade 2000-2009: Most Popular Words". Huffington Post. 
  26. ^ A Word a Year: 1906–2006
  27. ^ A Word a Year: 1905–2005
  28. ^ A Word a Year: 1904–2004
  29. ^ German Word of the Year
  30. ^ "Unword of the year" in Germany

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