By Alice Northover
Word of the Year season in the English-speaking world has come to a close. Oxford Dictionaries kicked off the annual reflection (and often infuriation) regarding words that were particularly relevant the past year. Here’s a brief round-up of the various words singled out by dictionaries, linguists, and enthusiasts.
- Oxford Dictionaries selected ‘selfie’ given its increase usage and prevalence in popular culture.
- Merriam-Webster selected ‘science’ after recording a 176% increase in look-ups and connection to its role in culture wars.
- Collins selected ‘geek’; its definition is shifting and moving from a negative to positive connotation.
- The Australian National Dictionary Center (ANDC) selected ‘bitcoin’ with its exponential growth in prominence in Australia over the last year in media, personal, and business use.
- Dictionary.com selected ‘privacy’ because of its role in many major stories this year from the NSA’s PRISM program to how data is collected via social media.
- Cambridge Dictionaries chose 10 words that reflected 2013: ‘bellicose’ and ‘snigger’ being two mysterious word jumps.
- Linguist Geoff Nunberg also selected ‘selfie’; the Obama-Cameron-Thorning-Schmidt photo was a deciding factor.
- Dennis Baron selected ‘marriage’ as Word of the Year following the US Supreme Court decision in June. (His phrase of the year is “invasion of privacy.”)
- Grant Barrett has a long list of Word of the Year candidates in the New York Times.
- Stan Carey selected ‘because X’ for its newish construction. (Go Stan!)
- Nancy Friedman has an interesting word list: ‘ephemeral’ stuck out for me.
- Ben Zimmer also rounded up a list of WOTY candidates in the Wall Street Journal.
- Lynne Murphy selected ‘bum’ as the UK-to-US Word of the Year — thinking of a weird advertising campaign.
- Wordnik did not have a Word of the Year but has many ‘best of’ posts.
- Lake Superior State University released their annual ‘banishment’ list, which features many Word of the Year candidates.
- The Economist‘s Johnson also selected ‘privacy’ as Word of the Year. (Also see the interesting commentary on German language.)
- Wordspy selected ‘work-life overload’. (Find the sub-category winners on Twitter.)
- The American Name Society selected ‘Francis’ as Name of the Year for 2013, the papal name chosen by Jorge Mario Bergoglio in March.
- The American Dialect Society selected ‘because’ as it has taken on a new grammatical life.
- Vlae Kershner and the readers of SFGate selected ‘Obamacare’.
And words of the year around the world also revealed some interesting trends:
- Festival XYZ selected ‘pleinior’ as the mot nouveau pour 2014. (It’s a more positive term for seniors or the retired; it implies ‘plenty’ and ‘full of life’.)
- The Festival du mot selected ‘transparence’ (transparency) [jury choice] and ‘mensonge(s)’ (lies) [public choice] for Mots de l’année 2013.
- ‘Rin’ is Kanji (Japanese character) of the year (poll sponsored by the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society) for a number of reasons including Tokyo’s selection as host of the 2020 Olympics.
- The Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (German Language Society) Word of the Year is ‘GroKo’, short for ‘Große Koalition’ or ‘grand coalition’ (Germany’s governing coalition).
- ‘Sakte-tv’ (slow-tv) was selected by Språkrådet (Norwegian Language Council). [Editor's note: Any translation assistance would be welcomed!]
- The Van Dale dictionary selected ‘selfie’ as the Word of the Year 2013 for both Dutch and Flemish.
- Genootschap Onze Taal (Dutch language association) voted ‘participatiesamenleving’ (participation society) as Word of the Year. (Remind anyone else of the ‘Great Society’ or ‘Big Society’?)
- A popular poll selected ‘dream’ for Chinese character and ‘reform’ for Chinese phrase in 2013.
- Porto Editora selected ‘bombeiro’ as Palavra do Ano 2013, the Portuguese term for firefighter following devastating wildfires this year.
- Fundéu (la Fundación del Español Urgente) selected ‘escrache’ as palabra del año, a term for demonstrations outside the homes of politicians and other public figures.
- Zingarelli (Zanichelli) is still holding votes for le parole dell’anno 2013; ‘arrosticìno’ is currently leading (translated definition: ‘skewer of lamb or mutton, typical of the cuisine of Abruzzo’ ; a diminutive of roast dating back to 1498).
Alice Northover is editor of the OUPblog and Social Media Manager at Oxford University Press.