Written by Amy Beecham
Surprisingly – and perhaps controversially – “woman” was named Dictionary.com’s word of the year for 2022.
Every year, the dictionaries of the world take on the impossible task of summing up the year in just one word. But with a year as eventful as 2022, it’s sure to be an even harder feat.
The Collins dictionary kicked us off with“permacrisis”, while Merriam-Webster put forward “gaslighting” as their pick for the year. The Oxford Dictionary gave us “goblin mode”, whereas Cambridge gave a nod to one of Wordle’s most infamous answers.
And now, Dictionary.com has announced its very own word of the year, and it might surprise you…
The Dictionary.com word of the year for 2022 is “woman”.
According to its website, searches for the word woman on Dictionary.com spiked significantly multiple times in relation to separate high-profile events, including the moment when a question about the very definition of the word was posed on the national stage.
The key moments included the confirmation hearing for US judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, where she was asked by senator Marsha Blackburn to provide a definition for the word woman. Another spike came after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, while the deaths of Queen Elizabeth II and Iranian protestor Mahsa Amini, and Serena Williams’ retirement from tennis, were big stories this year.
While not always for positive reasons, as Dictionary.com explains, 2022 will certainly be remembered in part for its impact on women, and for women’s impact on a changing world. And while the word itself is one of the oldest in the English language, dating back as earlier as the year 900, its definition has been debated at length in recent years.
“More than ever, we are all faced with questions about who gets to identify as a woman (or a man, or neither),” Dictionary.com says. “The policies that these questions inform transcend the importance of any dictionary definition – they directly impact people’s lives.”
It acknowledged that its entries for woman and “the inextricably linked word ‘female’ do [account] for the many facets of such terms – biological, personal and linguistic.” In fact, as it explicitly states: “The dictionary is not the last word on what defines a woman. The word belongs to each and every woman – however they define themselves.”
Other words that made the shortlist were “inflation”, “quiet quitting” and “democracy”. What an unprecedented mix for another unprecedented year.
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