Every year lexicographers (people who compile dictionaries) spend months and months on research to scour through the public lingo and discover words that are worthy of being added to dictionaries. In 2020, Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary added aadhaar, chawl, dabba, hartal, shaadi, and 21 other Indian English words in their new edition. Meanwhile, Collins Dictionary chose the word ‘lockdown’ as word of the year 2020 after their website registered more than a quarter of a million searches for ‘lockdown’ during that year.
In 2021, we saw another set of words—new and old—getting added to our vocabulary, many of which then made it to the top global dictionaries including Cambridge and Merriam Webster, Collins, and Dictionary.com. Collins' word of the year is ‘NFT (Non-fungible token), while Oxford Languages' chose ‘vax' due to the sheer number of times it was used in 2021.
Do you know that feeling of snuggling up on the couch in front of a flickering fire? Or wearing your favourite slippers while drinking hot tea? Well, there’s a name for that: hygge. It represents a cosy lifestyle with warmth and comfort.
'Vax' was chosen as the word of the year by the Oxford Languages due to the sheer number of times that it was used. This word happens to be very versatile. As a noun, it means vaccine or vaccination. As a verb, ‘to vax’ means to vaccinate. And if you point your phone at yourself during or after vaccination, especially one against Covid-19, then you’ve taken a vaxxie or a vaccination selfie.
There’s another new word to deride the millennials, coined by the Gen-Z. Originated in TikTok, cheugy is a catchall description for someone or something that is basic, trying too hard or isn’t trendy enough.
Metaverse recently weaved a whole new universe around it. It refers to a digital realm or collective of virtual experiences, almost indicating a vision of the future of the internet, which got hyped after Facebook’s October announcement that it was renaming itself Meta.
Haven’t we all done it, especially during the pandemic? Doomscrollingis basically reading negative news on social media or news sites and scrolling for more—scouring through the depths of the net, no matter how depressing the news might be. Eventually, you become obsessed with staying up to date with bad news.
This may sound like a tough term to remember, but it has noble connotations. Dictionary.com has chosen this as word of the year 2021, and it refers to the status or role played by someone who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of any marginalised groups in all areas of society and often stays in solidarity with the struggle.
7. Dutch baby
If you thought Dutch baby literally means a human baby with Dutch citizenship, then you are mistaken. It’s actually a pancake! It’s a type of large, puffy pancake which is served as three small different pancakes with powdered sugar and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. It is baked in a skillet and is typically served as a breakfast dish with toppings such as fruit.
8. NFT (Non-fungible token)
Glasgow-based Collins Dictionary picked ‘NFT’, an abbreviation for non-fungible token, as their word of the year for 2021— and why wouldn’t they? NFTs are raking in big bucks and creating buzz across India and the world—from finance pages of news publications to auction houses. According to Collins’ official report, they recorded an 11,000% rise in the use of the term NFT.
The website describes NFT as ‘a unique digital certificate, registered in a blockchain, that is used to record ownership of an asset such as an artwork or a collectible.’ Know more about NFTs here.
Another colloquial term that was shortlisted by the Collins’ Word of the Year 2021 team is double-vaxxed. Journalist and author David Shariatmadari, who wrote the blog on Collins’ website, said that double-vaxxed refers to a person who has received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
10. ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response)
Cambridge Dictionary and Merriam-Webster added ASMR, which is an abbreviation for the autonomous sensory meridian response, to their dictionaries and described it as ‘a pleasant tingling sensation that originates on the back of the scalp and often spreads to the neck and upper spine, that occurs in some people in response to a stimulus (such as a particular kind of sound or movement), and that tends to have a calming effect’.
ASMR videos, which feature sounds and visuals like whispering, tapping, and chewing, have skyrocketed in popularity in the past couple of years with hundreds of content creators on Instagram and YouTube uploading videos that induce this feeling. Netizens believe it’s a wonderful way to relax and sleep better.
11. Cancel culture
‘The practice or tendency of engaging in mass cancelling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure…’ that’s how Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term cancel culture. Fans and followers withdrawing support from a celebrity for a certain statement he or she made or citizens cancelling their support to a political leader, forcing him or her to step down is all part of cancel culture. When a person is ‘cancelled’ by the masses, they lose a lot of support (fans and followers), which can harm their career.