Word of the year 2019

Greta Thunberg au parlement européen (33744056508), recadré

Greta Thunberg is Time Magazine Person of the Year 2019.

Once again the month of December brings us a selection of words of the year. This time Tradiling is focusing on English. Here are a few of the awards that have been announced so far.

climate emergency

  • This is the Oxford Dictionaries choice, based on look-up frequency. Climate emergency has indeed been a hot topic, as illustrated by the popularity of the Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

cancel culture

  • This is the choice of the Australian Macquarie Dictionary committee of experts. Cancel culture refers to “the attitudes within a community which call for or bring about the withdrawal of support from a public figure, such as cancellation of an acting role, a ban on playing an artist’s music, removal from social media, etc., usually in response to an accusation of a socially unacceptable action or comment.”


  • This is the Macquarie Dictionary choice of the general public.  According to Macquarie, it refers to a “debt owed to the government by a welfare recipient, arising from an overpayment of benefits calculated by an automated process which compares the recipient’s income as stated by them to the government with their income as recorded by the Australian Taxation Office, a debt recovery notice being automatically generated and sent to the welfare recipient.”

Read about other popular words in the Australian vote.


  • Dictionary.com has chosen existential, “which we’ve chosen as our Word of the Year for 2019. It captures a sense of grappling with the survival—literally and figuratively—of our planet, our loved ones, our ways of life.”


  • Merriam-Webster’s choice “reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term—a personal pronoun—can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years. Lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year. English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years.”

climate strike

  • Collins chose this “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”.

Have you got any favourite words from 2019? We would love to hear from you.

All the best for the end of 2019 and a great new year for all Tradiling readers!

Richard Samson
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About Richard Samson

I’m a teacher living in Osona, Spain. I'm into tennis, dogs, and chickens. I’m also interested in translation and Moodle (well, digital tools for teaching, in general).
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