Words of the year, 2016 edition

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

  • Posted by Collins Dictionaries @ Thursday 03 November 2016
  • Brexit has been named Collins Word of the Year 2016 thanks to a dramatic increase in usage. Here's the words that made the top 10 list:*_
  • BrexitThe withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

HyggeA concept, originating in Denmark, of creating cosy and convivial atmospheres that promote wellbeing

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

mic dropA theatrical gesture in which a person drops (or imitates the action of dropping) a hand-held microphone to the ground as the finale to a speech or performance

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

Trumpism(1) the policies advocated by the US politician Donald Trump, especially those involving a rejection of the current political establishment and the vigorous pursuit of American national interests (2) a controversial or outrageous statement attributed to Donald Trump

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

throw shadeTo make a public show of contempt for someone or something, often in a subtle or non-verbal manner

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

sharentingThe habitual use of social media to share news, images, etc of one’s children

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

snowflake generationThe young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

dude foodJunk food such as hot dogs, burgers, etc considered particularly appealing to men

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

UberizationThe adoption of a business model in which services are offered on demand through direct contact between a customer and supplier, usually via mobile technology

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

JOMOJoy of missing out: pleasure gained from enjoying one’s current activities without worrying that other people are having more fun

What do you think of our top 10 words? Comment below.

What is the 2016 Word of the Year?

  • The American dictionary Merriam-Webster has named “surreal” its 2016 Word of the Year.
  • Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary defines the adjective as “very strange or unusual” or “having the quality of a dream.”
  • The word entered the English language in the 1930s, following the artistic movement known as surrealism.

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

An example of surrealist art

  1. Merriam-Webster says searches for “surreal” rose after several world events and tragedies in the past year.
  2. Major increases in the number of lookups directly followed the terrorist attacks in Belgium and France, the overthrow attempt in Turkey, the Brexit vote, and the death of American musician Prince.
  3. But, Merriam-Webster reports, the largest increase in searches for “surreal” came just after the United States presidential election last month.

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

Invited guests take cell phone pictures of Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto following his address in response to the U.S. presidential election in Mexico City, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016.

Its meaning comes from the word’s two parts. The word “real” comes after the preposition “sur,” which means “above” or “over” in the French language.

“Surreal” is often used to describe something shocking. People might use the word when they cannot believe — or do not want to believe — reality.

“Surreal” can have a negative or positive meaning. For example, the Grand Canyon or a trip to the Moon could be described as surreal.

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

The Grand Canyon stuns visitors with surreal views every day.

Other popular words of 2016 include revenant, icon, and bigly, Merriam-Webster says.

Revenant means “one that returns after death.” It comes from the French verb for “return.” The Oscar-winning Hollywood film “The Revenant” drove this word’s popularity.

People searched for the word “icon” in high numbers following the death of pop star Prince. It means “a person who is very successful and admired.”

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“Bigly” became hugely popular after many people thought U.S. President-elect Donald Trump used the word during a presidential debate.

Words of the Year, 2016 Edition

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center in West Allis, Wisconsin, Dec. 13, 2016.

People questioned whether the adjective “big” can be used as an adverb in the English language.

But language experts agreed that Trump actually said “big league.” This expression describes something very successful or high-level. Trump used it as an adverbial phrase.

Language experts also agreed that “bigly” is a word, although it is not often used.

Other dictionaries have also announced their 2016 words of the year.

The Oxford-English Dictionary chose “post-truth,” which describes situations in which “facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The phrase became popular during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Dictionary.com named “xenophobia” its Word of the Year. It means “fear or hatred of foreigners.” A huge increase in searches for the word happened on June 24 — one day after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

Ashley Thompson wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

What would you choose as your 2016 Word of the Year, in both English and your native language? Explain your choice in the comments section!


Words in This Story

  • adjective – n. a word that describes a noun or a pronoun
  • lookup – n. the action of getting information electronically
  • adverb – n. a word that describes a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence and that is often used to show time, manner, place, or degree

A glossary of 2016, the words that defined the year

LONDON — It's been an eventful year. From Britain voting to leave the European Union to Donald Trump being elected president of the United States. No one can accuse 2016 of being dull.

Some words and terms grew in prominence over the past twelve months, some new words were invented and some existing words gathered fresh meaning.

Here's a selection of the words that encapsulate 2016.


Alt-right is a term used to described various groups including white supremacists and white nationalists who place an emphasis on “preserving” and “protecting” the white race in the United States. It has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism and exists online (in the form of harassment and hate memes) and IRL. 

In November, a video published on The Atlantic showed the founder and ideologue of the alt-right Richard B. Spencer, shouting “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory”. It caused heated reaction on social media because of the stark parallel to Holocaust history.

The so called “alt-right” movement backed Donald Trump during the presidential election — though Trump himself said he disavows and condemns them.


On 23 June, Britain voted to leave the European Union by 52 percent to 48 percent. In the aftermath, the value of the pound dropped to a 30-year low.

Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, the first political casualty in what can arguably be described as the year that anti-establishment politics went mainstream.

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Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (and prominent Leave campaigner) hailed the referendum results as the UK's “independence day.” 


One of the many verbal mysteries of Donald Trump during the campaign was whether he was saying “bigly” or “big league”. 

2016 Words of the Year

Logo Logo

For good or for ill, this was Donald Trump’s year. Recently, Ideas crunched the headlines of the 1,000 most popular stories on BostonGlobe.com in 2016; in the word cloud above, the size of each word corresponds to how often it showed up. Inevitably, the Republican presidential candidate’s name dominated. In its ubiquity, it needs no further explanation here.

In this edition of Ideas, we examine some of the other terms that defined 2016. Trump’s campaign rhetoric, the missteps of his opponents, and the controversies around his most disreputable supporters loom large.

But there was plenty more going on, especially outside of politics: Shiny residential towers proliferated on the Boston skyline. Doctors and health care experts scrambled to deal with a once-obscure tropical virus that terrified expectant mothers and their families.

A decade from now, when you’re watching a quiz show or playing a trivia game, the random question about “Zika” or “Pokemon Go,” of “deplorable” or “bigly,” will bring memories of 2016 rushing back.


Sarah Lazarovic for The Boston Globe

Zika (n.)

This year, Zika fought well above its weight class. A tiny virus, carried by a tiny bug, that triggered a global freakout. And then, just as quickly as it began, the crisis was declared over.

The world’s words of the year show us how dark and surreal 2016 has been

Every December, lexicographers around the world choose their “words of the year”, and this year, perhaps more than ever, the stories these tell provide a fascinating insight into how we’ve experienced the drama and trauma of the last 12 months.

There was much potential in 2016. It was 500 years ago that Thomas More wrote his Utopia, and January saw the launch of a year’s celebrations under the slogan “A Year of Imagination and Possibility” – but as 2017 looms, this slogan rings hollow. Instead of utopian dreams, we’ve had a year of “post-truth” and “paranoia”, of “refugee” crises, “xenophobia” and a close shave with “fascism”.

Earlier in the year, a campaign was launched to have “Essex Girl” removed from the Oxford English Dictionary. Those behind the campaign were upset at the derogatory definition – a young woman “characterised as unintelligent, promiscuous, and materialistic” – so wanted it to be expunged from the official record of the language.

The OED turned down the request, a spokeswoman explaining that since the OED is a historical dictionary, nothing is ever removed; its purpose, she said, is to describe the language as people use it, and to stand as a catalogue of the trends and preoccupations of the time.

The words of the year tradition began with the German Wort des Jahres in the 1970s. It has since spread to other languages, and become increasingly popular the world over. Those in charge of the choices are getting more innovative: in 2015, for the first time, Oxford Dictionaries chose a pictograph as their “word”: the emoji for “Face with Tears of Joy”.

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In 2016, however, the verbal was very much back in fashion. The results speak volumes.

In English, there are a range of competing words, with all the major dictionaries making their own choices. Having heralded a post-language era last year, Oxford Dictionaries decided on “post-truth” this time, defining it as the situation when “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

In a year of evidence-light Brexit promises and Donald Trump’s persistent lies and obfuscations, this has a definite resonance. In the same dystopian vein, the Cambridge Dictionary chose “paranoid”, while Dictionary.com went for “xenophobia”.

Merriam-Webster valiantly tried to turn back the tide of pessimism. When “fascism” looked set to win its online poll, it tweeted its readers imploring them to get behind something – anything – else. The plea apparently worked, and in the end “surreal” won the day. Apt enough for a year in which events time and again almost defied belief.

Collins, meanwhile, chose “Brexit”, a term which its spokesperson suggested has become as flexible and influential in political discourse as “Watergate”.

‘Post-Truth’ Defeats ‘Alt-Right’ as Oxford’s Word of the Year

Continue reading the main story

“Post-truth” has been named Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 international word of the year, vanquishing a politically charged field that included “adulting,” “alt-right,” “Brexiteer,” “glass cliff” and “woke.”

The use of “post-truth” — defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” — increased by 2,000 percent over last year, according to analysis of the Oxford English Corpus, which collects roughly 150 million words of spoken and written English from various sources each month.

Katherine Connor Martin, the head of United States dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said it surged most sharply in June after the Brexit vote and Donald J. Trump’s securing the Republican nomination for president, making it an unusually global word.

“What we found especially interesting is that it encapsulated a trans-Atlantic phenomenon,” she said. “Often, when looking at words, you’ll find one that’s a really big deal in the U.K. but not in the U.S.”

The term, whose first known usage in this particular sense was in a 1992 essay in The Nation magazine citing the Iran-contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, does not represent an entirely new concept. But it does, Ms. Martin said, reflect a step past “truthiness,” the Stephen Colbert coinage that Merriam-Webster and the American Dialect Society each chose as its word of the year a decade ago.

“Truthiness is a humorous way of discussing a quality of specific claims,” she said. “Post-truth is an adjective that is describing a much bigger thing. It’s saying that the truth is being regarded as mostly irrelevant.”

Oxford’s word of the year is chosen to reflect “the ethos, mood or preoccupations” of a given year, but also to highlight the fact that English is always changing. Last year’s winner wasn’t a word at all, but the “Face With Tears of Joy” emoji. (Sigh. That was then.) In 2014, the laurel went to “vape.”

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