Oxford Dictionaries has named its word of the year 2019 – and we can thank Greta Thunberg

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Natalie Cornish
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climate emergency oxford dictionary

“Climate emergency” is Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year 2019 – and it sums up the new sense of collective urgency about the state of the planet.

Oxford Dictionaries has named the term “climate emergency” as its word of the year 2019.

The phrase is defined by Oxford as “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it” – and its usage is up 10,796% on 2018 as we become more aware of the impact we are having on the planet.

climate emergency oxford dictionary word of the year

"Climate emergency" shows a "greater immediacy" about how we now talk about the planet, Oxford say

Environmental activists, such as Greta Thunberg, have been credited with raising global awareness of climate change in 2019. Earlier this year, hundreds of cities and towns across the world declared a “climate emergency” with millions going on strike to encourage their governments to take action.

Casper Grathwohl, President of Dictionaries, says “climate emergency” was the obvious choice for Oxford’s word of the year 2019 – beating other similar shortlisted terms (“climate crisis”, “climate action” and “extinction”) to take the top spot.

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He explained: “These words tell the story of a rising issue, and of a public debate attuned to the power of language”.

The judging panel added that the addition of the word “emergency” is “something new, an extension of emergency to the global level”.

climate emergency

"Climate emergency" protests have taken place around the world

This new sense of collective urgency was recently praised by Sir David Attenborough, who recently said “the world is coming to its senses”.

The Oxford Dictionary chooses a word with “lasting potential” annually to “reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year”. Last year they opted for “toxic”, while 2017’s word of the year was “youthquake”.

And, for those arguing about the semantics of having two words instead of one, single words can have two parts – according to The Guardian.

Images: Getty, Unsplash

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