Behind the Dictionary

Lexicographers Talk About Language

What's Your Word of the Decade?

The American Dialect Society wants to know what you think the Word of the Decade is. Which word best sums up the years from 2000 to 2009? Read the call for nominations below.

At the American Dialect Society annual meeting in Baltimore next January, not only will the Society choose Words of the Year just past, but members and friends will also have the solemn responsibility of choosing a Word of the Decade 2000—2009.

Until most of 2009 is over, judgment about the top words of 2009 will have to wait. But since the decade is nearly over, it is not too early to consider which word best reflects this volatile ten-year period.

Nominations may be sent to the chair of the ADS New Words Committee, Grant Barrett, at wotyamericandialect.org. The committee will hold an open meeting to consider nominations on Thursday, January 7, 2010, with the final vote the next day.

Candidates will include the ADS Word of the Year for each year, though the choice for Word of the Decade need not be limited to them. Some of them pervaded the whole decade, but others characterized only their particular year. These were the Words of the Year, many of which now require explanation:
2000 chad, a small scrap of paper punched from a voting card.

2001 9/11, terrorist attacks on September 11.

2002 weapons of mass destruction or WMD, sought for (without success) in Iraq.

2003 metrosexual, fashion-conscious heterosexual male.

2004 red/blue/purple states, red favoring conservative Republicans and blue favoring liberal Democrats, as well as the undecided purple states in the political map of the United States.

2005 truthiness, what one wishes to be the truth regardless of the facts. (From the Colbert Report on television.)

2006 to be plutoed, to pluto, to be demoted or devalued, as was the former planet Pluto.

2007 subprime, a risky or less than ideal loan or investment.

2008 bailout, rescue by government of companies on the brink of failure.
The American Dialect Society was established in 1889 to study the English language in North America. It has been choosing Words of the Year since 1990, and Words of the Decade since 2000. In 2000 the Word of the Decade was web. (That year the Society also chose Word of the Century, jazz, and Word of the Millennium, she.)

More information on Words of the Year is available at the American Dialect Society website, http://www.americandialect.org/woty/.

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Since the overall WOTY winners didn't necessarily have much staying power, it's also instructive to take a look back at what won the "most useful" and "most likely to succeed" categories in each year:

Most Useful Most Likely to Succeed
2000
civil union muggle
2001
facial profiling /
second-hand speech
9-11
2002
google, v. blog
2003
flexitarian SARS
2004
phish, v. red/blue/purple states
2005
podcast sudoku
2006
climate canary YouTube, v.
2007
green- (prefix) green- (prefix)
2008
Barack Obama
(combining form)
shovel-ready

Are 2002's google and blog the early frontrunners? You be the judge!


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Comments from our users:

Thursday February 19th 2009, 2:52 AM
Comment by: Rosaleah
Personally, I think the word of the decade is _change_, some of it brought on by technology (analog to digital TV, f'rinstance), most of it wrought by 9/11 and its myriad aftereffects.
Thursday February 19th 2009, 2:21 PM
Comment by: Anonymous
I really disagree with the word being change. This decade has been pretty much the same the whole way through. Maybe the word should be

stagnant.
Saturday February 21st 2009, 10:04 AM
Comment by: Elizabeth N.
word of past decade: spend
word of current decade: save
Saturday February 21st 2009, 12:01 PM
Comment by: Elisa B. (Addison, TX)
While we are in the midst of economic and political chaos, I still say that "google" is my choice. Our ability to share, buy, talk, argue, research, influence and scam each other in lightening speed due to this handy internet search tool has defined this decade for everyone I know.

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"Bailout" came out on top in the voting for 2008 Word of the Year.
In 2007, "subprime" was the winner.
Will "shovel-ready" succeed in 2009?