The 2018 Word Of The Year Is...

Nov 30, 2018 By Alexis J, Writer Intern
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When you think of the Oxford English Dictionary, what comes to mind? A thick, dusty book that is on your parents’ bookshelf, but hardly ever used?

Well, it’s time to change that view. Because today’s Oxford English Dictionary or OED is just as modern and cool as you are with words such as “OMG” (Oh My God), “BFF” (best friend forever), “LOL” (laugh out loud), and the dictionary’s first graphic symbol, ♥(love), among others.

Recently, Oxford Dictionary announced its 2018 international word of the year, and it is "toxic." The Oxford Word of the Year is chosen based on the mood and events of the passing year. Past words include youthquake (2017), post-truth (2016), and vape (2014).

Oldest, Most Respected

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the oldest and most respected English dictionary, first published more than 150 years ago. It is considered to be the ultimate collection of words and currently contains 600,000 words and 3 million quotations from over 1,000 years of English.

The OED was first conceived by the Philological Society of London in 1857, as a four-volume series that was to be completed in ten years. James Murray was chosen as the editor. However, five years down the road, Murray and his colleagues had only reached the word 'ant', and realized it was time to revise timelines and get additional help. Multiple people joined the effort, including a prisoner serving time for a murder. Even J.R.R Tolkien worked on the OED -- his focus, the letter 'W'! 

Samuel Johnson was responsible for the overall look and feel of the first OED, where each word was defined and illustrated with quotes. The first volume (A-Ant) came out 27 years later, with the final 12-volume OED completed in 1928.

Toxic: 2018 Word Of The Year

In the past year, there has been a 45% increase in the number of times the word toxic has been searched on Other words that were being considered include "gaslighting", "incel" and "techlash". The word "toxic" was ultimately chosen because it has been increasingly used in conjunction with words like masculinity, environment, and chemical.

"Toxic" is derived from the Greek word "toxikon pharmakon," meaning "poison for arrows". However, the "toxikon" part of the phrase actually refers to "arrows" not poison. Originally, meaning literal poison, the earliest known printed reference to the word "toxic" dates back to 1664 in a book about forests. It was not until a few centuries later in 1913 that the word began being used in a metaphorical sense, used in the phrase "toxic carelessness".

The word was heavily used in the 1980s and 1990s when self-help books introduced phrases like "toxic debt" and "toxic bachelors". The word became an icon in 2003 with the release of Britney Spear's song "Toxic". Now, with the #metoo movement, the phrase "toxic masculinity" has gained popularity. In addition, with the pressing concern of global warming, "toxic" has been frequently used in an environmental context. 

Can you think of another word that you have come across a lot this year?  

Sources: NYTimes, Oxford Dictionary