It’s the end of another year, and another chance to try to figure out how to sum up the 12 months that we just lived through. There are countless lists of all the best books, major events and most viral TikToks of 2022 already circulating. One yearly recap is even more ambitious than that, though: choosing the 2022 word of the year. The idea of picking a single word to represent a whole year has origins that go back quite a bit, but it seems like every year a new dictionary or organization throws its hat in the ring. Thus, we present to you a collection of the 2022 words of the year from around the world.
The words chosen to encapsulate the past year cover a wide range. Some are specific to a country or region, whereas others intend to capture the zeitgeist of the whole world. Unlike in past years, there’s no single unifying theme — compared to 2020, for example, when the coronavirus pandemic was addressed in almost every word — though many react to the major events of 2022. This list can give you a portrait of our strange, varied year.
2022 Words Of The Year
Chosen By: Oxford Languages
Perhaps the most eye-catching 2022 word of the year, “goblin mode” is “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” While not coined in the past year, the term garnered a lot of attention after a tweet by user @JUNIPER featuring a fake headline about actress Julia Fox going goblin mode. In explaining why the word was chosen, Oxford said that “goblin mode” reflects the zeitgeist in a world forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Its selection was also aided by the public poll Oxford Languages used to choose the word. The other two options were “metaverse” and “#IStandWith,” which came in second and third, respectively. It’s an internet maxim, however, that the funniest choice is always going to be a top contender to win a poll.
Chosen By: Dictionary.com
This may seem like a somewhat broad choice considering it applies to half of the population, but Dictionary.com points to a number of events that led to its selection. Searches for the word reached their peak in March, when U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn asked then-Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, “Can you provide a definition for the word woman?” In addition to debates about gender, “woman” also was searched in relation to the protests in Iran that broke out after the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. Dictionary.com also noted both the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the imprisonment of American basketball player Brittney Griner in Russia for contributing to the increased number of searches.
Chosen By: Merriam-Webster
The word gaslighting is practically everywhere, but it was first used as the name of a play performed in 1938 (and a movie that followed). In the play, a husband attempts to convince his wife that she’s insane in several ways, particularly by dimming the gaslight in the home and telling her that no, the light has not been dimmed. Merriam-Webster notes that the word originally referred specifically to psychological manipulation, but its definition has expanded over the years to include pretty much any kind of misleading behavior.
Chosen By: Collins Dictionary
Which permacrisis was Collins Dictionary referring to when they chose this as 2022’s word of the year? Take your pick. There’s the ongoing pandemic, of course, but there’s also Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global inflation and the U.K. Conservative Party’s struggles after scandals broke out around Boris Johnson’s leadership. The word was chosen to represent the feeling of constant crisis in the world.
Chosen By: Cambridge Dictionary
What made “homer” one of the most looked-up terms in the Cambridge Dictionary? Was it some sort of massive event in baseball news, like Aaron Judge’s 62 home runs for the New York Yankees this past year? No, it was an entirely different cultural phenomenon: Wordle. Specifically, it was the confusion of non-Americans who were utterly confused when the five-letter “homer” was the answer to the word puzzle. Wordle drove quite a few lookups this year, with words like “loamy” spiking when they were the answer. “Wordle” itself could’ve been the word of the year, even, as it was the most searched-for term on Google, beating out “Ukraine” and “Queen Elizabeth” for the top spot.
As in years past, Australian groups chose a word that was a very local reference. The word “teal” refers to a political movement in Australia that came to prominence with a “teal wave” in the May elections, when a large number of independents were elected to parliament. Both the Australian National Dictionary Centre and Macquarie Dictionary point to environmental action and political integrity as the two focuses that unite the independent politicians who are called the teals.
As a bonus, Macquarie Dictionary also has a People’s Choice word of the year, which in 2022 was “bachelor’s handbag.” This refers to a prepared meal a single person might get at a supermarket because it’s a quick meal to feed one person.
戦 sen (“war”)
Chosen By: Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation
Each year, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation has a poll to decide which kanji best represents the year. In 2022, 戦, meaning “war,” won. The choice refers to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which has defined much of the international affairs that have occurred over the past year. Unlike other words of the year, there are many repeats in the Kanji of the year over time, but this is only the second time 戦 was chosen, with the first being back in 2001 in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center in the United States.
Zeitenwende (“sea change”)
Chosen By: German Language Society
The word Zeitenwende could apply to a few things, but the German Language Society chose it in reference to a specific speech. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine eine Zeitenwende in der Geschichte unseres Kontinents, or “a sea change in the history of our continents.”
Chosen By: Norwegian Language Council
One of the biggest stories of the year was the global inflation crisis, which led to many economic changes in countries around the world. The Norwegian Language Council chose Krympflasjon as their word of the year, which refers to a specific phenomenon when a product’s size goes down, but the price remains the same. The result is the same as regular inflation, but it’s a bit sneakier.