Word of the yearWhat topics caught the public’s imagination this year? Which words drove you or your friends to the dictionary? (Asking your Mom doesn’t count.)

We’re starting to find out as dictionaries report the popularity of word searches over the year. The searches show which words took off in popular use and reflect important events, people and preoccupations.

Here are the words (and terms) of 2019 so far:

  • Climate emergency, says Oxford Languages. This is “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.” Oxford notes a 266% rise in the use of this term over the last year.
  • Climate strike, says Collins English Dictionary: It’s a form of protest that took off with Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who this week made Time’s Person of the Year.
  • Existential, says Dictionary.com. The word is often used when something’s existence is at stake.
  • They, says Merriam-Webster. The vote recognizes the word’s new sense (used rather than he or she as a gender-neutral singular pronoun) and the fact that it was looked up 313% more this year than in 2018.
  • Upcycling, says Cambridge Dictionary. It chooses words based reader polls and searches on its website, and searches for upcycling rose 181% since it was added to the dictionary. The word means “the activity of making new furniture, objects, etc. out of old or used things or waste material.”

There will be more word choices in January, when the American Dialect Society votes for its choice among nominated words. The Global Language Monitor also reports in January; a front-runner so far is “woke,” an “epiphany-like experience where one is awakened to the call of social justice.”

Which words drove you to the dictionary, if any? Which would you nominate for word of the year?

Word cloud by Word It Out.

Related reading:
2017’s words include complicit, dotard and fake news
My post in 2015 gives more detail on why we like/don’t like new words