The words of the year

We are in the weeks when most dictionaries choose their “word of the year”. Although the methods followed by the different publications to take their decisions are very diverse, these “words of the year” reflect not only the interests of their readers, but also the topics that concerned society during the last 12 months. Especially if we observe from above all the words selected by the different dictionaries (not only the winners) and try to connect the points …

Oxford: Toxic

The Oxford dictionary, for example, has chosen ‘Toxic’ as its “word of the year 2018.” It is not only that this term has been looked up 45% more than in 2017. It is also good to learn that many people who looked up this word in the dictionary during the last months were not interested in toxic products, toxic substances or toxic gases, but they used this adjective together with nouns such as ‘masculinity’, ‘environment’, ‘relationship’ or ‘culture’ (all of them also potentially toxic, of course).

Among Oxford’s other finalists it is worth noting ‘Gaslighting’, “the action of manipulating someone by psychological means into accepting a false depiction of reality or doubting their own sanity,” ‘Orbiting’, “the action of abruptly withdrawing from direct communication with someone while still monitoring, and sometimes responding to, their activity on social media,” ‘Techlash’, “a strong and widespread negative reaction to the growing power and influence of large technology companies, particularly those based in Silicon Valley,” ‘Cakeism’, a very British term to refer to “the belief that it is possible to enjoy or take advantage of both of two desirable but mutually exclusive alternatives at once,” and ‘Gammon’, used as a derogatory term for “an older middle-class white man whose face becomes flushed due to anger when expressing political opinions.”

Cambridge: Nomophobia

The Cambridge dictionary has followed a procedure different to Oxford’s to decide its “word of the year”. Cambridge’s editors chose a shortlist of four words from this year’s new additions by looking at the most popular and most relevant to 2018, and then asked their readers to vote. The most voted word has been ‘Nomophobia’, the “fear or worry at the idea of being without your mobile phone or unable to use it.”

But still, the other words shortlisted by Cambridge’s editors were also very meaningful: ‘Gender gap’, “the difference between the way men and women are treated in society, or between what men and women do and achieve,” ‘Ecocide’, the “destruction of the natural environment in an area, or very great damage to it,” and ‘No-platforming’, “the practice of refusing someone an opportunity to make their ideas or beliefs known publicly, because you think these beliefs are dangerous or unacceptable.”

Collins: Single Use

Meanwhile, Collins has chosen a word that has seen a four-fold increase in lookups since 2013: ‘Single Use’. It refers to products – often plastic – that are “made to be used once only” before disposal, which due to their uncontrolled proliferation have become a threat to the environment.

The other words Collins shortlisted as candidates for its “word of the year” award included ‘Backstop’, a “system that will come into effect if no other arrangement is made”, ‘Metoo’, used as an adjective, “in reference to the social movement that seeks to expose and eradicate predatory sexual behavior, especially in the workplace”, and ‘Plogging’, a “recreational activity, originating in Sweden, that combines jogging with picking up litter.” Misinformation

Last but not least, has also chosen its own “word of the year”: ‘Misinformation’.

Misinformation is described by this online dictionary as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead,” a term neighbor but different to ‘disinformation’, which means “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”

“Disinformation would have also been a really interesting word of the year, but our choice of misinformation was very intentional,” Jane Solomon, a linguist-in-residence at, said. “Disinformation is a word that kind of looks externally to examine the behavior of others. It’s sort of like pointing at behavior and saying, This is disinformation.’ With misinformation, however, there is still some of that pointing, but also it can look more internally to help us evaluate our own behavior, which is really important in the fight against misinformation…”

… as well as against ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake news’, “words of the year” of the Oxford dictionary in 2016 and 2017 respectively, I dare to say.

Modern words for a modern world.

Un artículo de
Santi Garcia