According to Dictionary.com‘s editors, this was a year that continually brought us back to fears about the “other.”
The outlet has a unique position, as it’s a direct line to the public consciousness. Tons of data about the words people look up is at its disposal. And in 2016, one word used frequently reflected an unfortunate theme in this year’s news, their editors say: “fear of the other.” And that’s why Dictionary.com’s word of the year is xenophobia.
The word has two definitions on the site. Both pretty bad. They’re each an unfortunate reflection of the fearful sentiments during the American election, the Brexit vote, the debates over what to do with Syrian refugees, racially charged police shootings, fights over which bathrooms transgender people should be using in public, and probably a slew of other stains on this past year.
1. fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.
Dictionary.com’s 2015 word of the year was identity. The press release announcing that decision said, “many of the year’s biggest stories focused on the way in which individuals or members of a group are perceived, understood, accepted or shut out.”
Earlier this month Oxford Dictionary chose ‘post-truth’ as their 2016 word of the year, defined as: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
Still to be announced are words from Merriam-Webster and the American Dialect Society, the organization which sparked the modern tradition of announcing a “word of the year” more than a quarter century ago.