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Wednesday, 30th December 2009

Complete List: Oxford University Press Announces Words of the Year (Includes Material for India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa)

Here is the complete list from Oxford University Press with special sections for India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

What were the words that summed up the last year of the noughties? Countdown’s Susie Dent scanned the Oxford English Corpus (a unique two-billion word database) to choose the words that encapsulate the preoccupations, and lifestyles of 2009. Before we begin with the Words of the Year, two other lists from Oxford to be aware of.

1) The New Oxford American Dictionary Names 2009 “Word of the Year” and It Has to Do With a Popular Social Networking Service (12/03/09)

2) New Entries in the Oxford English Dictionary (12/2009)
Here are four of the many new entries:
+ Bridezilla
+ censorware
+ Linux

Oxford University Press Words of the Year, 2009


The recent success of the online campaign to get Rage against the Machine’s song to the Christmas number one spot in the UK chart, ahead of the X-Factor single, is a fitting end to a decade that has been dominated by the emergence of social networking sites. The influence that popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter have had on English vocabulary is clear. UNFRIEND (to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook) was voted the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year in the USA, and it is included here in the list along with its alternative DEFRIEND. On a more positive note, TWEETUPS (meetings or other gatherings organized by means of posts on the social networking service Twitter) have grown in popularity.


Susie chose CREDIT CRUNCH as her word of the year in 2008, and in 2009 the economy again has contributed to a proliferation of new terms including, in the current GREAT RECESSION, ZOMBIE BANK (a financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets, but which continues to operate because of government support) and BOSSNAPPING (a phenomenon in France where employees prevent senior managers from leaving company premises to protest against large-scale redundancies). In the corporate world, we have also seen the emergence of MINUTE MENTORING among aspiring professionals, and FREEMIUMS and PAYWALLS in businesses.

Back in fashion…

As the recession deepened this year, so the trend for STAYCATIONS–holidaying at home rather than abroad, or staying at home and going out for day trips–grew (even if few of us ever used the word with any great seriousness). Until, that is, our hopes of a ‘barbeque summer’ in the UK fizzled out in the traditional rainy downpours that marked 2009.

And those who remember–with either fondness or embarrassment–the past craze for leggings will have noted this year’s trend for JEGGINGS (close-fitting leggings made of fabric that resembles denim in appearance (from jeans + leggings).

Also back in fashion are some old words which have been given a new lease of life thanks to recent events: REDACT (to censor or obscure part of a text for legal or security purposes) has gained prominence due to the UK parliamentary expenses scandal, and perhaps as a result of this the term SNOLLYGOSTERS (meaning ‘shrewd, unprincipled people’) has been applied to politicians.

Much More After a Click

Words from around the world

In her research to compile her ‘Words of the Year’ list, Susie also looked at new vocabulary emerging in other countries, and here are some of the terms she discovered:

EVMs (abbreviation for 'Electronic Voting Machines'): general elections were held in India earlier this year and, although EVMs have been around for a while, they were used on a much larger scale in 2009.
AAM ADMI ('literally ‘common man’ in Hindi) an ordinary man, the Indian equivalent of Joe Bloggs or an average Joe. It was a slogan based on this term (‘The common man is marching ahead, every step of his makes India stronger’) that the present Indian government is thought to have won the general elections earlier this year.

The FORGOTTEN GENERATION: at the end of the year, the term The Forgotten Australians (or the Forgotten Generation) was used to describe people who underwent institutionalised care as children, especially the 10,000 child migrants who were shipped from Britain to Australia after the Second World War, often being told they were orphans when they were not. The official apology from Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister, echoed the 2008 apology to the stolen generations of indigenous people.
HATINATOR: this year’s fashion carnival that surrounds the annual Melbourne Cup horse race showed that the hatinator (a blend of ‘hat’ and ‘fascinator’) has firmly established itself in millinery circles.

New Zealand:
ECO-BACH: a small holiday house built on ecologically-sound principles.
HO-HUMMER: one whose sense of responsibility is limited to observation rather than action

South Africa:
GAUTRAIN: a new fast train due to come into service in Johannesburg in 2010.

Is life ever SIMPLES…?

“One word that seems to have captured the public’s imagination in 2009 is the word SIMPLES,” says Susie. “It has appeared on the ‘compare the meerkat’ TV adverts and has quickly become a catchphrase said by anyone when they mean that something that is very easy to achieve.”

How many of the new words that have gained prominence in 2009 will achieve permanence is anyone’s guess: only a tiny percentage of words will ever gain entry into an Oxford dictionary, and the waiting list of words is long.


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