Collins Dictionary word of 2019 revealed
The dictionary publisher also introduces the Brexicon, words that Brexit has given the language
Members of Climate Strike Fridays for Future protest about climate change outside the Dáil last February. Photograph: Alan Betson
Climate strike, a form of protest that took off just over one year ago with the actions of Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg and which has grown to become a worldwide movement, has been named Collins’ Word of the Year 2019.
Collins Dictionary’s lexicographers create the annual list of new and notable words that reflect an ever-evolving culture and the preoccupations of those who use it. This year, Collins Dictionary has also issued the Brexicon, a list of words related to Brexit.
Climate strike was first registered in November 2015 when the first event to be so named took place to coincide with the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, but it is over the last year that climate strikes have spread and become a frequent reality in many of the world’s largest cities. Collins’ lexicographers observed a hundred-fold increase in its usage in 2019, the largest increase noted of any word on the list.
Staying on an environmental theme, rewilding, the practice of returning land to a wild state, is also included as a word of the year. Personal as well as environmental matters are also noted; “bopo”, short for body positivity, a movement which advocates people being proud of their bodies whatever their shape or size, has seen a two-fold increase in usage. On a similarly upbeat note, hopepunk, a word used first in 2017 by writer Alexandra Rowland to denote a genre which emphasises positive messages of hope and optimism, with TV series as disparate as Doctor Who and the Great British Bake Off cited as typical examples, has seen an increase of over 2330 per cent this year.
A constant state of uncertainty coupled with the daily broadcast of diametrically opposed but firmly held viewpoints could be behind a number of the words in this year’s list. Political parties of every persuasion have faced the possibility of infiltration by entryists, who join with the singular intention of changing party direction or policy; politicians advocating a controversial or unpopular view, rather than take stock or concede a mistake, double down on their stances and refuse to give ground; and ultimately, those whose opinions are out of sync with progressive values may find themselves cancelled. We have also seen the growth of deepfake digital images or video, intended to deceive the viewer and which give us further cause to doubt the authenticity of what we hear and see.
Changes in how people relate to each other and define themselves have led to a substantial increase in use of nonbinary, which refers to those who do not identify with a binary gender category, with some adopting the pronouns they/them to refer to themselves.
Completing the list is influencer. Influencers on social media have broken through to the mainstream, in entertainment, commerce and elsewhere. The word influencer was first noted in a social media context in 2014, with usage rising year on year since then, and more than doubling in the last year alone. The recent coining of terms such as kidfluencer, granfluencer, cleanfluencer and even petfluencer on this model serves to prove that influencer has established itself as a familiar term for a recognised phenomenon.
Helen Newstead, language content consultant at Collins, said: “It seems an age since we had more light-hearted words of the year such as ‘bingewatch’ and ‘photobomb’, but the politically charged atmosphere of recent years is clearly driving our language, bringing new words to the fore and giving new meanings and nuance to older ones. ‘Climate strikes’ can often divide opinion, but they have been inescapable this last year and have even driven a former word of the year, ‘Brexit’ from the top of the news agenda, if only for a short time.”
Collins Dictionary definitions
climate strike – noun: a form of protest in which people absent themselves from education or work in order to join demonstrations demanding action to counter climate change
bopo – noun, also spelt BoPo: a movement advocating the view that people should be proud of the appearance of their bodies, or any aspect of this, especially size
cancel – verb: to publicly cease to acknowledge a person, organization, etc, esp on social media, in order to express disapproval of their activities or opinions
deepfake – noun, verb: (noun) a technique by which a digital image or video can be superimposed onto another, which maintains the appearance of an unedited image or video; (verb) to superimpose one digital image or video onto another so that it maintains the appearance of an unedited image or video.
double down – phrasal verb: to reinforce one’s commitment to a venture or idea in spite of opposition or risk
entryist – noun, adjective: (noun) a person who joins an existing political party with the intention of changing its principles and policies; (adjective) relating to the practice of joining an existing political party with the intention of changing its principles and policies
hopepunk – noun: a literary and artistic movement that celebrates the pursuit of positive aims in the face of adversity
influencer – noun: a person who uses social media to promote lifestyle choices, commercial products, etc to his or her followers
nonbinary – adjective. Also spelt non-binary: relating to a gender or sexual identity that does not conform to the binary categories of male or female, heterosexual or homosexual
rewilding – noun: the practice of returning areas of land to a wild state, including the reintroduction of animal species that are no longer naturally found there
Brexit was named Collins’ Word of the Year in 2016, and has dominated the national conversation ever since, with several related words being included in subsequent words of the year lists. To mark the latest chapter of the Brexit story, this year Collins Dictionary presents the Brexicon, a list of 10 words that Brexit has brought into prominence, for better or worse.
Brexiteer – noun: a supporter or architect of the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union
Brexiety – noun: a state of heightened anxiety triggered by concerns about the imminent withdrawal of Britain from the European Union
cakeism – noun: a wish to enjoy two desirable but incompatible alternatives
flextension – noun: informal an agreement to extend the time allowed for payment of a debt or completion of a contract, setting a new date that can be altered depending on future events
milkshake – verb: to throw a milkshake or similar drink over a public figure in order to humiliate him or her
no-deal – adjective: denoting a situation in which two parties fail to reach an agreement about how to proceed
Project Fear – noun: a name given to any political campaign that seeks to arouse public alarm about proposed changes to the status quo
prorogue – verb: to discontinue the meetings of (a legislative body) without dissolving it
remainer – noun (also Remainer): a person who believes that Britain should remain in the European Union. See also the related derogatory term, remoaner – noun (also Remoaner): a person who continues to argue that Britain should remain in the European Union despite the result of the referendum of 2016
stockpiling – noun: the activity of acquiring and storing large quantities of goods
Helen Newstead said: “The dictionary has no opinion on Brexit, other than to say it has been quite generous in its gifts to the English language, as well as I am sure inspiring the use of many old-fashioned expletives. The Brexicon could be even longer, but we feel our selection sums up many of the key themes since Collins named Brexit Word of the Year in 2016. As the process continues through this latest ‘flextension’, no doubt more words will emerge until we come to a ‘Brexend’.”