Word Of The Year – A History

Word of the Year
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The Oxford Dictionary published their “Word Of The Year” 2016, and it is post-truth. If you want to find out why this word made the cut, check out their article.


Now that we know the “Word of 2016”, however, lets have a look at the whole tradition of “Word of the Year”. We will answer some questions you may have about it and provide you with the answers. Furthermore, we have looked a bit at the history of this sometimes infamous award and broke it down into easy to digest bits for you. And, of course, you will find a list of all “Words of the Year” from the first accolade til today.


The Word Of The Year


What Is “Word Of The Year”?

“Word of the Year” is a symbolic award given by several institutions (like the Oxford Dictionary) to words that had a special  impact in the year they were chosen. Taken into account are not only single words but also expressions that were of some importance in the public sphere throughout the year in question.


When Did It Start?

In Germany, the tradition of crowning a “Wort des Jahres” started back in 1971. The first one determined for the English language, chosen by the American Dialect Society, was in 1990.


Who Announces The Word Of The Year?

For the English language, the aforementioned America’s Dialect Society officially announces the “Word of the Year” after the calendar year ended. However, several dictionaries also started publishing their very own “Word of the Year”. Such as:

  • Oxford English Dictionary started in 2004
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary started in 2003
  • Macquarie Dictionary started in 2006


Different from the dictionaries listed above, the official “Word of the Year” of the American Dialect Society is chosen via voting among several renowned and independent linguists.


What Are The Different Categories?

In addition to the overall “Word of the Year”, the American Dialect Society also selects words for this award in different categories. These categories vary throughout the years. Some of them include, most…

  • useful
  • creative
  • unnecessary
  • notable hashtag

… and more.


List Of All Words Of The Year For The English Language

Here are all words that have been given this award by the four sources mentioned above. Please note that the choice for 2016 by the American Dialect Society hasn’t been made yet.

Year American Dialect Society Merriam-Webster Dictionary Oxford English Dictionary
UK vs. US
Macquarie Dictionary
committee vs. people’s choice
2016 tba surreal post-truth tba
2015 Singluar they -ism ? captain’s call
2014 #blacklivesmatter culture vape mansplain vs. shareplate
2013 because (as in because awesome, because reasons) science selfie infovorce vs. onsie
2012 hashtag socialism, capitalism omnishambles vs to GIF phantom vibration syndrom vs. First World Problem
2011 occupy pragmatic squeezed middle burqini vs. fracking
2010 app austerity big society vs. refudiate googleganger vs. shockumentary
2009 tweet admonish simples vs. unfriend shovel-ready vs. tweet
2008 bailout bailout credit crunch vs. hypermiling toxic debt vs. flashpacker
2007 subprime w00t carbon footprint vs. locavore pod slurping vs. password fatigue
2006 plutoed thruthiness bovvered vs. carbon-neutral muffin top
2005 truthiness integrity sudoku vs. podcast
2004 red state, blue state, purple state blog chav
2003 metrosexual democracy
2002 weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
2001 9-11
2000 chad
1999 Y2K
1998 e- (as in e-mail, e-commerce)
1997 millennium bug
1996 mom
1995 web, to newt
1994 cyber, morph
1993 information superhighway
1992 Not!
1991 mother of all
1990 bushlips

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