Online Dictionary Reveals Its 2016 Word of the Year

January 28, 2017

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. custom / ˈkʌs təm / (n.) – a practice or activity that has been passed from generation to generation
Example: It is their custom to make offerings to the shrine every month.

2. lookup / ˈlʊkˌʌp / (n.) – the act of looking for information from a database or reference
ExampleLookups about the topic increased when the teacher gave it as a homework.

3. bring about / brɪŋ əˈbaʊt / (phrasal v.) – to cause something
Example: The new law will surely bring about great change.

4. prominent /ˈprɒm ə nənt / (adj.) – well-known and very important
Example: He is one of the most prominent personalities in the industry.

5. spike / spaɪk / (n.) – a huge increase in a short period of time
Example: The spike in the price of butter was caused by a shortage of milk.


Read the text below.
Online dictionary site has chosen “xenophobia” / ˌzɛn əˈfoʊ bi ə, / as the 2016 Word of the Year.

“Xenophobia” is the combination of two Greek words: “xenos,” which means “stranger” or “guest” and “phobos,” which means “fear” or “panic.”

The word is defined by as the “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.” Jane Solomon, a writer and editor of the online dictionary, said that the word can also refer to the fear or dislike of the customs, dress, and cultures of people from a different background.

According to Solomon, the sudden increase in lookups of the word was brought about by several prominent world events, such as Britain’s Brexit vote.  The biggest spike in lookups of “xenophobia” occurred on June 24, a day after UK’s Brexit referendum. The event prompted hundreds of searches for the word every hour.

Lookups were also prompted by other significant events such as the US presidential race and the Syria crisis. Issues such as gender inequality and racial discrimination also contributed to the increase.

In a statement, the online dictionary said that it aims to choose a word that reflects a major theme found in discussions over the last 12 months. For 2016, the site’s data revealed that searches for the word “xenophobia” increased all over the world, as the word became a subject that reappeared in several global issues. 

The site ended its statement by saying that people should not celebrate the victory of “xenophobia” as Word of the Year. Instead, called upon everyone to reflect on the word and the events that caused its popularity.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What do you think the selection of “xenophobia” as Word of the Year indicate?
·         In your opinion, how should the word of the year be chosen?

Discussion B

·         If you were to choose the word of the year in the English language, what would it be? Why?
Which word in your native language should be declared as word of the year? Why?

January 28, 2017