Posted by: Jack Henry | December 30, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year

Movie awards season is just getting started, but word of the year awards season is wrapping up.

Donna previously wrote about choosing xenophobia as their word of the year. Two other publishers (Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster) recently announced their picks.

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year

Each year, Oxford Dictionaries nominates about 10 words and chooses one as word of the year. They sometimes choose separate words for the United States and the United Kingdom, but not since 2012.

The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is largely a publicity stunt (remember “Face with Tears of Joy”?), and the word is not necessarily added to the website, the Oxford English Dictionary, the Oxford Dictionary of English, or the New Oxford American Dictionary.

One problem with a dictionary trying to capitalize on trending hashtags is that we don’t yet know whether those words will have any staying power. Will anyone be using the shortlisted words “adulting” or “Brexiteer” 10 years from now? Time will tell.


This year, Oxford Dictionaries cruelly snubbed the “Smiling Face with Heart-Shaped Eyes” emoji and picked a proper word:

· post-truth: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief

Use of the word post-truth increased 2,000 percent last year, according to Oxford Dictionaries: “The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.

“Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event—as in post-war or post-match—the prefix in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant.’ This nuance seems to have originated in the mid-20th century, in formations such as post-national (1945) and post-racial (1971).

Post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine. Reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that ‘we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world.’”

You can read the full press release, including the other shortlisted words, at the Oxford Dictionaries website.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
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  1. […] announced its 2016 word of the year. It was the third dictionary publisher to do so (after Oxford Dictionaries and […]

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