Oxford Dictionaries announces its word of the year for 2022: "Goblin mode"

As 2022 nears its end, dictionaries are chiming in on the word that best that encompasses the year. And according to Oxford Dictionaries, “goblin mode” is the 2022 word of the year. The company annually chooses a word of the year, but this time, it let the public cast votes to choose among three finalists. Over two weeks, more than 300,000 people weighed in, and on Monday, the dictionary announced goblin mode was the winner. 

It defines “goblin mode” as a slang term for “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

Oxford Dictionaries says its annual word of the year reflects the mood of the past 12 months and that it also seeks to choose something with the potential for lasting cultural significance. Past Oxford words of the year include “vax” in 2021, “climate emergency” in 2019, and “selfie” in 2013. 

“Goblin mode” got its start on Twitter in 2009, but the term went viral in February 2022. The expression’s rise in in popularity coincided with the easing of COVID restrictions, as more people started venturing out of their homes. Some rejected or struggled with the return to normalcy and continued live in their lives unapologetically in goblin mode.

“Goblin Mode really does speak to the times and the zeitgeist, and it is certainly a 2022 expression. People are looking at social norms in new ways. It gives people the license to ditch social norms and embrace new ones,” American linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer said at an event for Oxford Dictionaries. 

While it is a casual term often seen on social media, it has made its way into major news publications too, like when The Times of London published an opinion piece in which the author said too many people had embraced goblin modein response to a difficult year.”

The second place winner in Oxford’s word of the year vote was “metaverse,” describing “a (hypothetical) virtual reality environment in which users interact with one another’s avatars and their surroundings in an immersive way, sometimes posited as a potential extension of or replacement for the internet, World Wide Web, social media, etc.” according to the dictionary. Though the word metaverse has been around since the early 1990s, it really took off in the past year as Facebook attempted to rebrand itself as a metaverse company.

In third place: “#IStandWith,” a hashtag used to “express solidarity with a specific cause, group, or person,” the dictionary says. 

Oxford is just one of several major dictionary companies vying to define the word of the year. Last month, Merriam-Webster selected “gaslighting” as its 2022 word of the year, and Collins English Dictionary went with “permacrisis.”

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