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Hindi Word of the Year is… aadhaar!


In November 2017, we announced our search for a Hindi Word of The Year, calling on speakers of the language to help choose a word that captures the prevailing ideas, attitudes, and concerns of 2017.

After studying the lexical trends of the past year, reviewing the hundreds of public suggestions received, and consulting the opinions of an advisory panel of language experts, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen the first ever Hindi Word of the Year: aadhaar.

The origins of aadhaar can be traced back to Sanskrit, and in modern Hindi, means ‘base’ or ‘foundation’. The decision to name India’s new identification initiative ‘Aadhaar’ put it at the centre of a great social and political debate in India, that attracted the attention of the rest of the world in 2017. In this context, Aadhaar is a 12-digit identification number assigned to all residents of India. Translated into figures, that is almost 1.2 billion enrolled individuals as of the end of 2017, representing more than 99% of Indians above the age of 18, each with a unique code linked to their biometric and demographic data. The Indian government’s aim for the introduction of Aadhaar is to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and to facilitate the delivery of social benefits and services to Indian citizens.

Many Indians protested against Aadhaar as a violation of the fundamental right to privacy. Widespread anxiety over data use and security was further compounded by the recent push to have enrolled individuals link their Aadhaar to a host of private and public services, from bank accounts and mobile phone numbers to pensions and welfare schemes. Humanitarian issues have also been raised in connection with the treatment of homeless people who have not been assigned an Aadhaar.

The advisory panel for Word of the Year included Hindi language experts:

• lawyer, polyglot, and Indian language expert Kritika Agrawal
• journalist Saurabh Dwivedi, Editor-in-Chief of 
• Malika Ghosh, Senior Editorial Manager of Oxford University Press India
• writer and publisher Namita Gokhle, co-founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival and Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Literature Festival
• Poonam Nigam Sahay, Associate Professor at Ranchi University in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

The panel brought varied perspectives and areas of expertise, but all agreed on the relevance and timeliness of aadhaar. The choice is also supported by Oxford Dictionaries’ analysis of the year’s lexical trends—online search information about aadhaar clearly shows a spike in usage over the last few years, peaking in mid-2017.

The controversy surrounding aadhaar brought it to the forefront in 2017, but several others also made the Word of the Year shortlist, including swachh (clean, neat, and orderly) and yoga.

See the shortlist and read more about Hindi Word of the Year on the Oxford Dictionaries website.

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