• Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Decoding Oxford’s criteria for choosing ‘Word of the Year’

Kimberly RodriguesBy: Kimberly Rodrigues

The process of selecting the “Oxford Word of the Year” was elaborated by Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Languages, in an interview with PTI from New York. Grathwohl explained that each year, a team of lexicographers from Oxford University Press reviews the evidence and selects the word of the year.

They consider various factors and analyze real language data, with the frequency of use being one of the key indicators. If a word has a spike in usage, they examine what has been happening with that word and why it experienced increased usage.

The final word is chosen from a shortlist of around 30-40 words every year. Throughout the year, the Oxford University Press marks potential candidates for the word of the year.

They also send queries to their staff asking for candidates, resulting in a long list of potential words. They then analyze the nominated language to shorten the list and eventually settle on the word of the year.

Grathwohl clarified that “Word of the year” is not necessarily included in the dictionary. Good candidates for word of the year are often emerging words in the language in real-time, so the word of the year may not have been included in the dictionary at the time of announcement.

For the first time in 2022, Oxford introduced a new stage in deciding the word of the year, allowing people from across the world to vote from a final choice of three words.

“Goblin mode” was the Word of the Year in 2022, with 3.18 lakh votes from across the globe. Goblin mode is a slang term that describes behavior that is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.

In 2021, the word of the year was “Vax,” highlighting the medical breakthroughs and the rise of Covid vaccines across the world.

In 2020, Oxford for the first time had chosen not to name a word of the year, describing 2020 as “a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word”. Instead, from “unmute” to “mail-in”, and from “coronavirus” to “lockdown”, the eminent reference work has announced its “words of an ‘unprecedented’ year”.

“Toxic” and “Climate emergency” were the words of the year in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Grathwohl shared an anecdote about how the word “emoji” was nominated as the word of the year several years ago when emojis exploded in usage. Eventually, the decision was made to pick an emoji itself as the word of the year. The campaign was controversial, but it made people think about language and how it’s evolving and changing, which is what they were trying to achieve.

With inputs from PTI

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