Collins reveals the English language’s new word of the year, after ‘unprecedented’ surge in usage

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 9:27pm

The publisher of the Collins Dictionary has announced its word of the year, which enjoyed an “unprecedented surge in use” in 2016, and came in ahead of other contenders such as “Trumpism” and “hygge”.

Collins hailed “Brexit” as the year’s most significant new word in the English language. Although it was first recorded in 2013, its usage increased by more than 3,400 per cent this year as the British referendum to leave the EU approached in June, and as the ramifications have played out since. Such an increase, said Collins, is “unheard of” since it began monitoring word usage.

“‘Brexit’ is arguably politics’ most important contribution to the English language in over 40 years, since the Watergate scandal gave commentators and comedians the suffix ‘-gate’ to make any incident or scandal infinitely more compelling,” said Helen Newstead, Collins’s head of language content.

According to Newstead, Brexit is “proving even more useful and adaptable” than Watergate. As well as its obvious definition as “the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”, and its spawning of words including “bremain” and “bremorse ”, the term has also inspired “a lot of wordplay”, said Collins. She pointed to “BrexPitt” or “Bradxit”, referring to the end of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s marriage, “Mexit”, for the footballer Lionel Messi’s retirement, and “Bakexit”, about the BBC’s loss of The Great British Bake Off TV show.It was added to the current print edition of Collins Dictionary earlier this year.

Other contenders for Collins’s word of the year included Trumpism. “Trump is not the first politician to have had his name co-opted by language: ‘Thatcherism’ and ‘Reaganomics’, for example,” said Newstead. “However, the longevity of ‘Trumpism’ as a word may depend on his success in the forthcoming election.”

Collins’ 10-strong list of final contenders for the top spot, which will appear in Collinsdictionary.com, also included “snowflake generation”, which it defines as “the young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations”, and the Danish concept of “hygge”, or “creating cosy and convivial atmospheres that promote wellbeing”.

The phrase “throw shade ”, which Collins said was made popular in gay communities in late 1980s America, and which it defines as “to make a public show of contempt for someone or something, often in a subtle or non-verbal manner”, also made Collins’s list, as did “sharenting” (“the habitual use of social media to share news, images, etc of one’s children”).