It’s that time again! Collins Dictionary has named its Word Of The Year for 2022, and, after a tumultuous few months of unpredictable events – from Brexit, the continued pandemic, war, inflation, climate change – it seems ‘permacrisis’ is the terribly perfect word for describing 2022 and taking the top spot.
The people behind the dictionary’s annual list said it chose the word ‘permacrisis’ – meaning "an extended period of instability and insecurity" – as it “sums up quite succinctly just how truly awful 2022 has been for so many people”.
Including ‘permacrisis’, six out of the 10 words of the year on Collins’ list are completely new to the Collins dictionary. However, the term was first noted in academic contexts from the 1970s.
Next on the list is ‘partygate’, which refers to the scandalous social gatherings between government ministers and former prime minister Boris Johnson, despite there being public health restrictions in place.
Running a bit more positive but nonetheless confounding for some is the word ‘splooting’, which describes how animals stretch out their limbs to cool down in the heat. Many pet owners used the word during the intense heatwaves this summer, in the desperate search for hacks to keep pets cool while ‘splooting’.
You’ve probably heard of quiet quitting already, which also came up on the list this year. It reflects the ongoing debate about whether Gen Z are the ‘least resilient generation’, ‘the great resignation’, and the continuous conversations we have about work and boundaries in a post-pandemic world. The term came into daily discourse earlier this year and describes how workers advocate doing the bare minimum in an attempt to improve their work/life balance.
‘Vibe shift’ has made it onto the list after becoming prevalent in February this year, used popularly alongside the ‘return of indie sleaze’ aesthetics. The word refers to those who seek a ‘significant change in the prevailing atmosphere or culture’, and was actually coined by the same guy who came up with ‘normcore’ all those years ago Trendsetting!
More recently, the UK has mourned the former monarch Elizabeth II’s death, who died 8 September. The historic moment has been marked as ‘Carolean’, signifying the end of the second Elizabethan era and the beginning of the reign of King Charles III.
‘Kyiv’ has also been added to the list, after the Ukrainian city became a symbol of Ukraine’s strength amid war and conflict against Russia.
In more grim yet timely definitives, and in light of the current cost of living crisis, the phrase ‘warm bank’ has made it onto the list. This describes a heated building, such as a library or place of worship, where people who cannot afford to heat their own homes go to warm up. ‘Lawfare’ is another new addition and refers to "the strategic use of legal proceedings to intimidate or hinder an opponent".
Finishing off the list is ‘sportswashing’, following its increased use in the lead up to the World Cup in Qatar. It's a word for how organisations and countries use sports promotion to enhance reputations or distract from controversial activities or policies – given Qatar’s appalling human rights record and treatment of people around the lead up to the large scale event, that makes sense.
Alex Beecroft, managing director of Collins Learning, said: “Language can be a mirror to what is going on in society and the wider world and this year has thrown up challenge after challenge.
“It is understandable that people may feel, after living through upheaval caused by Brexit, the pandemic, severe weather, the war in Ukraine, political instability, the energy squeeze and the cost-of-living crisis, that we are living in an ongoing state of uncertainty and worry.
“Our list this year reflects the state of the world right now – not much good news, although, with the determination of the Ukrainian people reflected by the inclusion of “Kyiv”, and the dawn of the new “Carolean” age in the UK, there are rays of hope.”
How are the top 10 Words Of The Year chosen?
The lexicographers at Collins Dictionary monitor their 18-billion-word database and a range of media sources, including social media, to create the annual list of new and notable words that reflect evolving language.
Last year’s word of the year was “NFT” (short for non-fungible token) – which entered the mainstream after millions were spent on the most sought-after images and videos, and celebrities from Paris Hilton to Bella Hadid, Elon Musk and Snoop Dogg joined the NFT craze.
We can only hope that Word Of The Year 2023 will be rooted in some positivity
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