The Associated Press reports:
You might have thought about it, heard it. A lot. You might have even felt it: Dictionary.com’s word of the year is “xenophobia.” While it’s difficult to get at exactly why people look words up in dictionaries, online or on paper, it’s clear that in contentious 2016, fear of “otherness” bruised the collective consciousness around the globe.
The Brexit vote, police violence against people of color, Syria’s refugee crisis, transsexual rights and the U.S. presidential race were among prominent developments that drove debate — and spikes in lookups of the word, said Jane Solomon, one of the dictionary site’s lexicographers.
The 21-year-old site defines xenophobia as “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.” And it plans to expand its entry to include fear or dislike of “customs, dress and cultures of people with backgrounds different from our own,” Solomon said in a recent interview.
The word didn’t enter the English language until the late 1800s, she said. Its roots are in two Greek words — “xenos,” meaning “stranger or guest,” and “phobos,” meaning “fear or panic,” Solomon added. The interest was clear June 24, within a period that represents the largest spike in lookups of xenophobia so far this year. That was the day of Brexit, when the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Earlier this month the Oxford English Dictionary named “post-truth” as its word of the year for 2016.