Word of the Year

By Matt Vicker

Last year’s word of the year was a personal favourite of mine; ‘omnishambles’ (mainly because it was coined in the politically satirical sitcom The Thick of It, but also because it was a pointless piece of information I used in a pub quiz a year ago…) . However, the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of 2013 is… ‘selfie’. The OED defines it as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”.

This revelation has sparked one hell of a debate in the comments section of the BBC news article reporting it – feel free to take a look at the link at the bottom of the page. Prescriptivists everywhere have been outraged that this word exists, let alone be crowned word of the year by the OED. In my view, language has to evolve as times progress and different things happen in culture; new words need to be created in order to provide accurate accounts of what is going on.

At the end of the day, a dictionary is there to provide an account of the words that we use at this particular pinpoint in time. ‘Selfie’ is a word frequently used by young people today and, after all, young people are what are driving language forward. According to some unspecified research in the article, ‘selfie’ has increased by 17,000% in the last year, making it very worthy as a word of the year in my opinion. In an age where social networking is a huge part in people’s lives, more and more technology-related words are going to become prominent in language.

Ultimately, I am glad the OED chose ‘selfie’ over other frequently-used words ‘twerk’, ‘binge-watch’ and ‘schmeat’, but maybe that’s just me…

What do you think – is ‘selfie’ a stupid word that is unworthy of being included in the dictionary; or is it justified by the frequent usage of it? Let me know by commenting on this post – I would love to find out your opinions.

Check out the BBC article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24992393



  1. Now, I find selfie is a really good word of the year! I only learnt about it when it became OED word of the year – and have used it many times since! Yet, I think it also changed my perception of ‘selfies’ as slightly more negative than before!

  2. I feel a little ambivalent about ‘words of the year’. While it’s great that they encourage the public to engage in the debate about what makes a word a word, it does feel that a disproportionate amount of media coverage is given to just one word. (Perhaps they should try a ‘semantic field of the year’ 🙂 ). There’s also the fact that the ‘word of the year’ always seems to be a novel word – obviously because this is the only reason to draw our attention to it, while all other words are absorbed by that familiar sea we call language. But familiarity shouldn’t breed contempt. I like the word ‘candlelight’, but that’s definitely not going to make the cut (unless it comes to denote some internet fad – I wonder if I can get Miley Cyrus to do some raunchy ‘candlelight’ and if the pope gets in on the action too, then it’s a sure thing).

    1. Perhaps we could have a ‘semantic field of the year’ competition here on the blog? Also, Miley Cyrus doing some ‘candlelight’ would be interesting… can’t be more graphic an image than twerking though, surely?

  3. Pingback: New Words « Lingo

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