After a year that put the “other” in question, Dictionary.com has named the word “xenophobia” its word of the year.
Citing the Brexit vote, police shootings, Syria’s refugee crisis, transgender rights, and the U.S. presidential race as examples of news stories that focused on “othering,” Dictionary.com highlighted its chosen word, which combines two Greek words that mean “stranger” (xénos) and “fear” or “panic” (phóbo).
The second biggest spike came just a few days later on June 29 after President Obama gave a speech claiming Donald Trump’s political rhetoric did not enforce populism but “nativism or xenophobia.”
“Xenophobia and other words tied to global news and political rhetoric reflected the worldwide interest in the unfortunate rise of fear of otherness in 2016, making it the clear choice for Word of the Year,” said Liz McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com, in a statement. “While we can never know the exact reasons why xenophobia trended in our lookups this year, this reflects a desire in our users to understand the significant discourse surrounding global events.”
“Dictionary.com is right to make xenophobia the word of the year, but it is also one of the biggest threats we face,” said Robert Reich, Professor at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. “It is not a word to be celebrated. It is a sentiment to be fought.”
Dictionary.com’s choice comes just after the Oxford Dictionaries named their word of the year: “post-truth.”