To make this more fun, we’ll also look into the crystal ball and make some predictions for the top words in 2017. Feel free to contribute! My crystal ball is a little cracked, so the picture isn’t too clear. If you happen to have an HD crystal ball, I’m sure you could contribute!
2016’s top Word: and the winner is…
Post-truth. If you don’t know the meaning of this word, you’d better learn it now. As you can tell, the prefix “post” means “after” and that’s followed by “truth” so this literally means “after the truth.”
However, as far as I can see, it hasn’t got anything to do with what comes after the truth. Rather, it relates to something that happens completely outside of the truth, or at least is assumed based on flimsy evidence. It means thinking with your emotions and how you feel about things, rather than looking at facts. Apparently, it’s quite the trend these days, so switch off your smarts and go with your gut. Woohoo! Suddenly, we all become geniuses!
Other Brand-New Top 2016 Words
Brexit. No list of 2016’s new words would be complete without Brexit. Initially coined to describe the UK’s exit from the European Union, it has now come to mean anything that’s anti-globalization. It’s also seen as implying passionate nationalism. I suspect that several other words will be coined to follow it, and we’ll go into those a little later.
Trumpism. As you can tell, 2016 was a year for politics with the gloves off. It’s been such a weird year that we’ve had to create new words to describe some of the new phenomena. Trump, love him or hate him, has certainly come up with a new post-truth style, and the utterances that arise from this have become known as “Trumpisms” this year.
Sharenting. Luckily, it hasn’t all been politics. We still have social media for those “OMG! Little Johnny’s got his first tooth!” moments. Go ahead, show your sharenting skills and post that pic. After all, I post pics of my kittens, and we can have some blissful relief from political discussion by entering an argument about which is cuter: your baby or my kittens!
Uberization. Wow! Guess what? Spell check already recognizes this one. As you may have guessed, Uberization relates to the so-called “sharing economy” in which service providers offer services directly to prospective clients for less than they’d pay if they went through a company.
Existing (and slightly altered) Words Everyone’s Googling
Merriman-Webster lists these words as having been wildly popular in 2016.
- Surreal: “marked by the intense irrationality of a dream.” I kid you not, it has been a strange year, and the popularity of this word is a symptom of that.
- Revenant: “one that returns after death or a long absence.” I like this word a lot, and we have Hollywood and Leo DiCaprio to thank for getting it back onto everyone’s radar.
- Icon: “a person who is very successful or admired.” Sigh. A lot of icons have died this year, and the headlines probably contained the word, leading folks to look it up for interest’s sake.
- Bigly: Here’s a fun one. Did you know that Trump never actually said “bigly?” That’s what linguists are saying. Apparently, they have done voice analyses and report that Trump actually said “big league.” Who cares? We heard “bigly!” We like it!
- Irregardless: Merriam-Webster says that technically, “irregardless” is a word. However, it says that the word, which sparked a lexical storm after a commentator at the World Series final used it, is “non-standard.” It’s nice that we can still get excited over trivia!
What Will Be the Top Words for 2017?
I’m going to TRY to stay clear of the political minefield in my predictions. Am I cowardly? Yup! Some things are just not worth dying for, and feelings are running rather high at the moment. There’s just one political word prediction from me, and that’s “Nexit.”
What does Nexit mean? Whoever’s next to exit the EU, of course! It could be a Frexit, or a Grexit, or a Dexit, or we could segue into a Swexit, but unless the UK ends up having a really, really hard time as a result of its decision, someone’s going to follow suit. Any bets?
I can already see some words starting to trend, but I’m afraid they’re political too.
- Fascism and all its permutations seems incredibly popular at the moment. I don’t think most people know what it really means, so I imagine there will be plenty of furtive googling so nobody has to actually ask. And no, this is not political commentary, merely an observation.
- Apartheid is also doing the rounds once again. In case you didn’t know, this was the old South African policy of “separate development.” It didn’t work for anyone, but once again, I see it gaining new popularity on social media right now.
- Trump is going to gain a whole new meaning in 2017. What will that be? Time will tell. I suspect it won’t have anything to do with a game of cards.
Then I suppose I should be a little creative too:
- Phews is my own creation. It describes the phenomenon of fake news. It’s a hybrid between “fake” and “news” with the “ph” to make it trendy. It’s genius, really. Help me to make it go viral!
- Twentysixteen could catch on as a word to describe something that you’d like to leave behind. Personally, I have no real problem with the year, but I think a slightly less exciting one would be nice for a change.
- Post-politics will be way better than post-truth. I would suggest this word should mean getting on with one’s life while ignoring politicians as much as possible. After all, it only encourages them when they think we’re paying attention. The only problem with that is that one does have to watch them, if only out of the corner of your eye.
I’ll enjoy revisiting my list at the end of 2017 when we’re ready to enter into 2018. To be honest, I look back fondly to the time when “selfie” was the number one word of the year. At the time, I thought it a warning symptom of a culture of narcissism, but compared to 2016’s words, it was positively cheerful!