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Word of the Year: frequently asked questions

What is the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year (WOTY)?

Oxford Dictionaries, as a global leader in language, was among the first institutions to have a Word of the Year. We know that language matters; this is a concept that continues to be close to our hearts. The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a word or expression that we can see has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months. Every year, candidates for Word of the Year are debated and one is eventually chosen that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.

How is the Word of the Year chosen?

The candidates for the Word of the Year are drawn from the evidence gathered by our extensive language research programme and the Oxford English Corpus, which collects around 150 million words of current English each month from newspapers, books, blogs, and transcripts of spoken English. Sophisticated software allows our expert lexicographers to identify new and emerging words on a daily basis and examine the shifts in how more established words are being used.

Dictionary editors also flag notable words for consideration throughout the year and use other sources of data to identify contenders. We regularly take into account the many suggestions sent to us via social media and in the comments on our blog.

The final Word of the Year selection is made by the Oxford Dictionaries team on the basis of all the information available to us.

Does the Word of the Year have to be a new word?

The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months but it does need to have become prominent or notable during that time.

When will the Word of the Year make its debut in Oxford’s dictionaries?

To have been selected as Word of the Year means that a word has great resonance for the year in which it was chosen, but there is no guarantee that it, or the other words on the shortlist, will make it into an Oxford dictionary. Many of our Word of the Year shortlist words do immediately get added to en.oxforddictionaries.com or are added as new senses of existing words. We want our dictionaries to be as up-to-date as possible and now update them on almost a daily basis. So chances are that even if the word is not added to the dictionary when it is announced as Word of the Year, it will be very soon.

Discover more about how our dictionaries are created.

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in the US and the UK

Oxford Dictionaries has editorial staff based in the UK and in the US. Over the years, the UK and US dictionary teams have often chosen different Words of the Year. Each country’s vocabulary develops in different ways according to what is happening culturally and in the news and, as such, the strongest contender for Word of the Year can be different. Over the last few years, we’ve chosen words that capture the imagination on both sides of the Atlantic. This perhaps reflects the increasingly global nature of language and communication and how quickly the use of new words or meanings can travel from one side of the globe to the other.

Is this the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) Word of the Year?

OED editors are an integral part of the Word of the Year selection, but this Word of the Year is not exclusively chosen by the OED editors. Oxford Dictionaries publishes many dictionaries including the OED, and the Word of the Year is selected by staff from across dictionary teams.

Find out more about the differences between the OED and our other dictionaries.

What are the previous Oxford Dictionaries Words of the Year?

The words we've chosen in previous years can be seen in this table:

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