2019 Words of the Year: Climate Emergency, Existential, They

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Words of the year reflect the year that was. (Designed by Gargi Singh)

Like every year, 2019 was marked with several monumental events, incidents and accidents, which both shaped the year and us. As we stand on the last day of the year, a good way to look back at the year that was is by looking at the words of 2019.

Oxford English Dictionary: Climate Emergency

Climate change is no longer just a topic in the newspaper, it is being manifested in tangible ways. The year has been about a 16-year-old environmentalist Greta Thunberg telling and schooling adults to take climate change seriously. It is no surprise then that the Oxford Word of the Year is Climate Emergency. It is defined as "a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it." The year has been about people being more aware of it and also, "demonstrable escalation in the language people are using to articulate information and ideas concerning the climate."

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: They

The gender-neutral singular pronoun, they is Merriam-Webster Dictionary's word of the year. Most recently, as their website confirms, "they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers." It became part of the conversation as more and more people started using it and acknowledged their usage.

"Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA) revealed in April during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Equality Act that her child is gender-nonconforming and uses they. Singer Sam Smith announced in September that they now prefer they and them as their third person personal pronouns."

ALSO READ | Why ‘they’ is the word of the year

Collins’ Dictionary: Climate strike

greta thunberg climate change activist

Greta Thunberg, climate change activist. (Source: gretathunberg/Instagram)

The Collins' Dictionary word of the year is Climate strike. Directly related to Thunberg's effort and protest. The website details, that climate strike is "a form of protest that took off just over one year ago with the actions of Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg and which has grown to become a worldwide movement, has been named Collins’ Word of the Year 2019."

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Cambridge Dictionary: Upcycling

Cambridge Dictionary has chosen Upcycling as the word of the year. The act of making new items from discarded clothes is referred to as upcycling. Although the word was first added to the dictionary in 2011, of late it has generated a lot of interest among people.

Dictionary.com: Existential

The word of the year for Dictionary.com is Existential. Even though the word carries a myriad of meanings, in 2019, the word "Existential, as a word and theme, was prominent in discussions of topics that dominated 2019: climate change, gun violence, and democratic institutions. It also popped up in lighter stories in popular culture, signaling its place in the cultural zeitgeist."