Oxford Dictionaries has named its word of the year – and you've probably never used it

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Emily Reynolds
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Political upheaval is reflected in this year’s Words of the Year.

Oxford Dictionaries has named its word of the year 2017 as “Youthquake”. 

The term is defined as a “significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people” and reflects the political upheavals of the year. according to Oxford Dictionaries and was used 401% more in 2017 than in previous years. 

Casper Grathwohl, President of Dictionaries, explained that the word wasn’t an “obvious choice” but that it was an “ambitious word with suitcases packed”. 

“We chose youthquake based on its evidence and linguistic interest,” he said. “But most importantly for me, at a time when our language is reflecting a deepening unrest and exhausted nerves, it is a rare political word that sounds a hopeful note. Hope that the damage we’ve done to our institutions will enable the next generation to rebuild better ones. Hope that our polarised times are creating a more open-minded electorate that will exercise its voice in the times ahead.”

“Sometimes you pick a Word of the Year because you recognise that it has arrived, but other times you pick one that is knocking at the door and you want to help usher in. As the annus horribilis of 2017 draws to a close, a year which many of us feel we’ve barely survived, I think it’s time for a word we can all rally behind. A word we can root for and collectively empower as the Word of the Year.”

Youth protest movements have defined the year (Rex Features) 

The word was part of a wider shortlist – much of which was similarly political. They included:

  • Antifa: a political protest movement comprising autonomous groups affiliated by their militant opposition to fascism and other forms of extreme right-wing ideology.
  • Broflake: a man who is readily upset or offended by progressive attitudes that conflict with his more conventional or conservative views.
  • Gorpcore: a style of dress incorporating utilitarian clothing of a type worn for outdoor activities.
  • Kompromat: compromising information collected for use in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes.
  • Milkshake Duck: A person or thing that initially inspires delight on social media but is soon revealed to have a distasteful or repugnant past.
  • Newsjacking: The practice of taking advantage of current events or news stories in such a way as to promote or advertise one’s product or brand.
  • Unicorn: Denoting something, especially an item of food or drink, that is dyed in rainbow colours, decorated with glitter, etc.
  • hite fragility: Discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.

Unicorn themed food also rose to prominence in 2017 (Rex Features)

Elsewhere, as the year draws to a close, W Magazine revealed that “power” was the “most-used word in fashion” of 2017 - and other dictionaries have also named their similarly political words of the year. 

Collins Dictionary named “fake news” their word of the year (“false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”), while US dictionary Merriam-Webster chose “feminism”. 

“No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events, or stories of a given year—particularly a year with so much news and so many stories,” it explained. “But when a single word is looked up in great volume, and also stands out as one associated with several different important stories, we can learn something about ourselves through the prism of vocabulary.”

Main image: iStock


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Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a journalist and author based in London. Her first book, A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind, came out in February 2017 with Hodder & Stoughton. She is currently working on her second.