The Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year 2022 is… HOMER
‘Homer’ is Word of the Year, according to the world’s most popular online dictionary for learners of English.
The winning word from Cambridge Dictionary was searched for nearly 75,000 times during the first week of May, when it was an answer in the word game Wordle, to become the dictionary’s highest-spiking word of the year.
In 2022, five-letter Wordle answers dominated the top-ranking dictionary searches as Wordle became a global phenomenon.
Ninety-five percent of the searches for ‘homer’, an informal American English word for a ‘home run’ in baseball, were from outside of North America, as disgruntled Wordle players turned to the Cambridge Dictionary to learn what it meant.
Cambridge Dictionary, with its commitment to providing trusted guidance on the use of both British and American English words, was ideally positioned to settle debates.
The Wordle effect
In a typical year, spikes in searches of the Cambridge Dictionary are related to current affairs. In 2022, by contrast, the spikes for five-letter Wordle words created a new category of contenders for Word of the Year.
The American spelling of ‘humor’ caused the second highest spike in 2022, followed by ‘caulk’ (a word more familiar in American English than in British English), then words that were generally unfamiliar: ‘tacit’, ‘bayou’, ‘trope’, and ‘knoll’.
British vs American English
After their Wordle winning streaks came to an end, speakers of British English used words like ‘outraged’ and ‘furious’ to complain on social media about the choice of ‘homer’ as the Wordle answer for May 5. Americans, in turn, grumbled about ‘bloke,’ which appeared on July 25.
Wendalyn Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary Publishing Manager, said, “Wordle’s words, and the public’s reactions to them, illustrate how English speakers continue to be divided over differences between English language varieties, even when they’re playing a globally popular new word game that has brought people together online for friendly competition about language.
“The differences between British and American English are always of interest not just to learners of English but to English speakers globally, and word games are also perennially entertaining. We've seen those two phenomena converge in the public conversations about Wordle, and the way five-letter words have simply taken over the lookups on the Cambridge Dictionary website.”
Non-Wordle runners-up in 2022
Searches for Wordle’s five-letter words on the Cambridge Dictionary website squeezed out other high-interest words that reflected current affairs. These included ‘oligarch’, likely triggered by new international sanctions and geopolitical shifts, and ‘vulnerable’, which may have been prompted by inflation and the cost of living crisis that hit many markets worldwide. ‘Ableist’ spiked during the controversy over the use of an ableist slur in pop song lyrics.
New words in 2022
Hundreds of new words and meanings are added to the Cambridge Dictionary each month, with ongoing votes on whether newly popular terms such as ‘quiet quitting’ or ‘digital amnesia’ should be added to the dictionary. The weekly New Words blog can be found at https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/category/new-words/.
The Cambridge lexicographers are currently considering new terms such as:
- digital amnesia (‘a condition where people become less able to remember things because they are used to looking everything up on the internet’) https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2022/09/26/new-words-26-september-2022/
- quiet quitting (‘the activity of doing the minimum amount of work needed to keep one’s job but with no enthusiasm or commitment’) https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2022/09/12/new-words-12-september-2022/
- skimpflation (‘the situation when the price of a product or service stays the same but the quality becomes worse’) https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2022/08/01/new-words-1-august-2022/
- treat brain (‘a state of mind where someone constantly wants to buy things because doing so makes them feel good’) https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2022/06/13/new-words-13-june-2022/
- splinternet (‘the idea that there is, or could be, different versions of the internet rather than one global version, usually because the governments of some countries have blocked or restricted parts of its content’) https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2022/04/25/new-words-25-april-2022/
- cosy crime (‘a type of crime fiction that is light-hearted and often humorous, is set in a small community and does not feature explicit violence’) https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2022/03/28/new-words-28-march-2022/
About Cambridge Dictionary
With over 2.3 billion page views and over 415 million visitors per year, Cambridge Dictionary (https://dictionary.cambridge.org) is the world’s most popular website for learners of English, and became the world’s largest free online dictionary by pageviews in July 2022. It draws on the Cambridge English Corpus - a database of over 2 billion words - covering both British and American English.
The Cambridge Dictionary is completely free of charge. Its rich dictionary, thesaurus and grammar resources such as quizzes and YouTube videos are all informed by Cambridge’s expert research in language. Uniquely, the Cambridge Dictionary allows users to toggle easily between British and American English definitions.
Notes to Editors:
1. For more information about this press release, please contact the Cambridge University Press & Assessment comms team:
Cambridge University Press & Assessment, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire UK CB2 8EA. Cambridge University Press & Assessment is part of the University of Cambridge.
2. The Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year website is: https://www.cambridge.org/woty. Please note the site will be updated with Word of the Year 2022 information after the embargo time of 0001 GMT Thursday 17 November.