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Word of the Year 2018 is…Toxic


We have announced ‘toxic’ as our Word of the Year 2018—a word or expression chosen to reflect the passing year in language.

Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries team debates over a selection of candidates, choosing the one that best captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year. Defined as ‘poisonous’ and with its origins in Greek (toxikon pharmakon, meaning ‘poison for arrows’), ‘toxic’ has become a descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics.

Alongside its literal sense, data shows that people used the term to describe workplaces, schools, relationships, cultures, and stress. Politically, the #MeToo movement has shone a spotlight on ‘toxic masculinity’ while, more broadly, the word has been applied to the environment for debate fostered by the Brexit vote and by the rhetoric of leaders across the globe. It was the sheer scope of the word’s application that made toxic the stand-out choice for Word of the Year.

Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries, commented: ‘Reviewing this year in language, we repeatedly encountered the word ‘toxic’ being used to describe an increasing set of conditions that we’re all facing. Qualifying everything from the entrenched patriarchy to the constant blare of polarizing political rhetoric, ‘toxic’ seems to reflect a growing sense of how extreme, and at times radioactive, we feel aspects of modern life have become.’

Other words to make this year’s shortlist include:

  • Cakeism—the belief that it is possible to enjoy both of two desirable but mutually exclusive alternatives at once
  • Big dick energy—an attitude of understated and casual confidence
  • Gammon—a derogatory UK term for an older middle-class white man whose face becomes flushed with anger when expressing political opinions
  • Gaslighting—manipulating someone by psychological means into accepting a false depiction of reality or doubting their own sanity
  • Incel—short for ‘involuntarily celibate.’ Self-descriptor by members of an online subculture who typically deem themselves chronically unable to attract romantic or sexual partners
  • Orbiting—the action of abruptly withdrawing from direct communication with someone while still monitoring their activity on social media
  • Overtourism—an excessive number of tourist visits to a destination, resulting in damage to the local environment, historical sites, and quality of life for residents
  • Techlash—a strong and widespread negative reaction to the growing power and influence of large technology companies, particularly those based in Silicon Valley.

Find out more about this year’s Word of the Year 

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