Word of the Year 2022

alex atkins bookshelf words

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language,” wrote the poet T. S. Eliot, “and next year’s words await another voice.” To that observation, we can add: this past year’s words also define the language, the conversations, or more accurately, the zeitgeist of the year. — in the words of the editors of Oxford Dictionaries, “the Word of the Year is a word or expression reflecting the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months, one that has potential as a term of lasting cultural significance.”

Across the pond, the editors of Oxford Dictionaries decided to change things up a bit. Typically the editorial board decides on the word of the year; however, for 2022 they launched an online poll to have the public select the word of the year from a list of three candidates: goblin mode, metaverse, and #StandWith. And the winner is — drum roll, please — “goblin mode.” Goblin mode is defined as “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” The editors explain, “Although first seen on Twitter in 2009, goblin mode went viral on social media in February 2022, quickly making its way into newspapers and magazines after being tweeted in a mocked-up headline. The term then rose in popularity over the months following as Covid lockdown restrictions eased in many countries and people ventured out of their homes more regularly. Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media.”

Meanwhile, the editors of Merriam-Webster selected the word “gaslighting” as its 2022 Word of the Year. Gaslighting is defined as “psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.” A more general definition provided by the dictionary is “The act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” Merriam-Webster senior editor, Pete Sokolowski elaborates, “There is this implication of an intentional deception. And once one is aware of that deception, it’s not just a straightforward lie, as in, you know, I didn’t eat the cookies in the cookie jar. It’s something that has a little bit more devious quality to it. It has possibly an idea of strategy or a long-term plan.” Other candidates for word of the year that the editors reviewed were: oligarch, omicron, codify, queen concert, raid, sentient, cancel culture, LGBTQIA, loamy.

For 2022 Word of the Year, the editors of Macquarie Dictionary (the Webster’s Dictionary of Australia) selected “teal” — and it is not the initial definition you think of (green-blue color), but rather a newly formed political meaning: “an independent political candidate who holds generally ideologically moderate views, but who supports strong action regarding environmental and climate action policies, and the prioritizing of integrity in politics.” In Australia’s 2022 elections, teal candidates — independent candidates that challenged established figures in the Labor and Liberal parties — dominated the election. The etymology is based on the use of the color teal as a branding color for Zali Steggall’s political campaign. Teal stood out against the colors used by Labor candidates who used red, and Liberal candidates use use blue. Runners up to the word of the year included: goblin mode, spicy cough, bachelor’s handbag, 

For 2022 Word of the Year, the editors of Dictionary.com selected “woman,” defined as “an adult female person.” Woman is derived from the Old English wifman, combing the words wif (meaning female or woman) and man (meaning person). The first recorded use is in the year 900. The editors explain their rationale for selecting this old word: “It’s one of the oldest words in the English language. One that’s fundamental not just to our vocabulary but to who we are as humans. And yet it’s a word that continues to be a source of intense personal importance and societal debate. It’s a word that’s inseparable from the story of 2022. This year, searches for the word woman on Dictionary.com spiked significantly multiple times in relation to separate high-profile events, including the moment when a question about the very definition of the word was posed on the national stage. Our selection of ‘woman’ as our 2022 Word of the Year reflects how the intersection of gender, identity, and language dominates the current cultural conversation and shapes much of our work as a dictionary… The biggest search spike started at the end of March, during a confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who in April became the first Black woman to be confirmed as a US Supreme Court justice. Specifically, the surge in lookups came after she was asked by Senator Marsha Blackburn to provide a definition for the word woman. It was a rare case of not just a word in the spotlight, but a definition. We at Dictionary.com weren’t the only ones to take notice. The prominence of the question and the attention it received demonstrate how issues of transgender identity and rights are now frequently at the forefront of our national discourse. More than ever, we are all faced with questions about who gets to identify as a woman (or a man, or neither). The policies that these questions inform transcend the importance of any dictionary definition—they directly impact people’s lives.”  Runners up included: Ukraine flag emoji, inflation, quiet quitting, democracy, Wordle.

Collins Dictionary, published in Glasgow, Scotland, selected “permacrisis” as its 2022 Word of the Year. Permacrisis is defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity” or a series of consecutive dramatic events that create a sense of dread, wondering what the next crisis will be. The editors of Collins Dictionary note, “[Permacrisis] is one of several words… that relate to ongoing crises the UK and the world have faced and continue to face, including political instability, the war in Ukraine, climate change, and the cost-of-living crisis.” Runners us include: partygate, warmbank, lawfare, sportswashing, Kyiv, splooting, Carolean, quiet quitting, vibe shift.  

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

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Read related posts:
Word of the Year 2021
Word of the Year 2020

Word of the Year 2019
Word of the Year 2018
Word of the Year 2017
Word of the Year 2016

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