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Image / Editorial

The Collins Dictionary Word of the Year has Greta Thunberg written all over it

by Grace McGettigan
08th Nov 2019

word of the year

word of the year

Collins English Dictionary has announced its new Word of the Year. Here we look at the winner, the shortlist, as well as previous winners of the title

Every year, Collins Dictionary announces a new ‘Word of the Year’ – a word that has seen increased usage across the English-speaking world and is reflective of issues in the public sphere.

The dictionary, which dates back to 1824, has revealed that 2019’s Word of the Year is ‘climate strike’.

climate strike noun: a form of protest in which people absent themselves from education or work in order to join demonstrations demanding action to counter climate change.

Collins said the term took off just over a year ago with the actions of Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, adding that it has grown to become a “worldwide movement”.

Climate Strike vs the runners-up

According to Collins’ lexicographers, the term ‘Climate strike’ was first registered in November 2015, when the first event to be so named coincided with the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

“However, it is only in the last year that ‘climate strikes’ have spread and become a frequent reality in many of the world’s largest cities. [We] observed a one-hundred-fold increase in its usage in 2019,” they said.

Other shortlisted words include ‘influencer’ (noun: a person who promotes lifestyle choices to their followers on social media), ‘deepfake’ (verb: to superimpose one digital image onto another, which maintains an unedited appearance), and ‘rewilding’ (noun: the practice of returning areas of land to a wild state, including the reintroduction of animal species that are no longer naturally found there).

Other shortlisted words include ‘cancel’ (verb: to publicly cease to acknowledge a person, organisation, etc. on social media, in order to express disapproval of their activities or opinions), ‘BoPo’ (noun: a movement advocating the view that people should be proud of the appearance of their bodies, or any aspect of this, especially size), and ‘nonbinary’ (adjective: relating to a gender or sexual identity that does not conform to the binary categories of male or female, heterosexual or homosexual).

Previous Words of the Year

The Collins English Dictionary has announced a Word of the Year every year since 2013. A quick look through the winners (as well as the runners-up) gives a snapshot into society at that time.

In 2013, words such as ‘Bitcoin’ and ‘twerking’ were very much in use. By 2015, we started using words such as ‘ghosting’ and ‘manspreading’. And in 2018, we spoke a lot about ‘MeToo’ and ‘Plogging’.

See the full list of previous winners (and shortlisted words of the year) below:

2018: Single-use

Shortlisted: Backstop, Floss, Gaslight, MeToo, Plogging, Vegan, Whitewash.

2017: Fake news

Shortlisted: Cuffing season, Echo chamber, Fidget spinner, Gender-fluid, Gig economy, Insta, Unicorn.

2016: Brexit

Shortlisted: Hygge, Mic drop, Trumpism, Throw shade, Sharenting, Snowflake generation, Uberization, JOMO.

2015: Binge-watch

Shortlisted: Dadbod, Shaming, Clean eating, Ghosting, Swipe, Contactless, Manspreading, Transgender.

2014: Photobomb

Shortlisted: Tinder, Bakeoff, Normcore, Devo Max.

2013: Geek

Shortlisted: Twerking, Bitcoin, Plebgate, Thigh gap, Black Friday, Payday lending, Harlem Shake.

We wonder which words 2020 will have in store.

Photo: Unsplash

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