‘Post-truth’ was proclaimed international word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries on Wednesday after beating off ‘alt-right’ and ‘Brexiteer’, a choice the publisher said reflected a year defined by emotive political discourse.
The compound adjective post-truth was defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Oxford Dictionaries said use of the word post-truth had increased in 2016 by about 2,000 percent compared with its usage in 2015, linking the spike in frequency to Britain’s referendum on EU membership and the U.S. presidential election.
“It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse,” said Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, which publishes the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary and other works.
The publisher says its word of the year process aims to select a word that “captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year”.
The shortlist for the 2016 title also included alt-right, defined as “an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterised by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content”.
Other shortlisted words related to political or social events included Brexiteer, a person in favour of Britain withdrawing from the EU, and ‘woke’, an adjective defined as “alert to injustice in society, especially racism”.
Oxford Dictionaries said woke had been in use by African-American communities for decades but had been introduced to a broader audience in 2016 through the use of the phrase ‘stay woke’ by supporters of the US Black Lives Matter movement.
In 2015, the word of the year was a pictograph for the first time, the ‘Face With Tears of Joy’ emoji. The previous year, the title went to ‘vape’, the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette.