Dictionary.com Crowns ‘Xenophobia’ Word of the Year

By Kenrya Rankin Nov 29, 2016

Each year, Dictionary.com chooses a word of the year that, as the site’s blog explains, “embodies a major theme resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness over the prior 12 months.” This year, the year that a reality television personality used exclusionary, nationalistic and racist rhetoric to become the next president of the United States, that word is “xenophobia.”

Defined by Dictionary.com as “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures or strangers,” the world has been around since the 1800. But site lexicographer Jane Solomon told The Washington Post that there was a massive increase in searches for the definition in June following the hate-driven Brexit vote and a speech in which President Barack Obama said that Trump’s rhetoric was an example of “nativism or xenophobia or worse.”

Yesterday’s (November 28) blog post makes it clear that picking the sentiment—which has been tied to this year’s increase in hate crimes against people of color and Muslims in the United States—does not equate to honoring it:

Despite being chosen as the 2016 Word of the Year, xenophobia is not to be celebrated. Rather it’s a word to reflect upon deeply in light of the events of the recent past.

“I wish we could have chosen a word like unicorns,” Solomon told The Washington Post.