Cambridge Dictionary reveals its word of the year for 2021

‘Perseverance’ gets the honour thanks to global interest in Nasa’s Mars mission

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has been credited with influencing Cambridge Dictionary’s word of the year for 2021. Photograph: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/PA Wire

The Cambridge Dictionary has revealed its word of the year for 2021 is “perseverance”, with editors crediting global interest in Nasa’s mission to Mars for the decision.

Look-ups for the word spiked after the Perseverance Rover made its final descent to the red planet on February 18th, with 30,487 searches on the Cambridge Dictionary website for “perseverance” between February 19th and February 25th this year.

It has been looked up on the Cambridge Dictionary website more than 243,000 times globally during 2021.

Perseverance is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “continued effort to do or achieve something, even when this is difficult or takes a long time”.


Wendalyn Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary publishing manager, said it “made sense” that look-ups for the word spiked after the descent of Nasa’s Mars rover.

“Perseverance is not a common word for students of English to have in their vocabulary,” she said.

“We often see spikes in look-ups of words associated with current events when those words are less familiar.”

She said editors felt it an appropriate word, given the challenges of 2021.

“Just as it takes perseverance to land a rover on Mars, it takes perseverance to face the challenges and disruption to our lives from Covid-19, climate disasters, political instability and conflict,” said Ms Nichols.

“We appreciated that connection, and we think Cambridge Dictionary users do, too.”

In January of this year, searches on Cambridge Dictionary’s website spiked for “insurrection”, “impeachment”, “inauguration” and “acquit”, as the aftermath of the US presidential election had the world’s attention.

Editors said this provides further evidence that words looked up on Cambridge Dictionary often reflect current world events. – PA