Dictionary.com has announced its 2016 “Word of the Year,” which happens to be a devastating reflection of the current social climate in the United States.
The word "xenophobia” was named Word of the Year by the virtual dictionary, which unfortunately doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Xenophobia is defined as the “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.”
Looking back through the year, four major global news topics played significant roles in creating this uptick in xenophobic views, including Brexit, the U.S. presidential election, the Syrian refugee crisis, and of course, the recent acts of terror, such as the Brussels, Belgium bombings back in March and the Nice, France attack in July.
The Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies President-elect Donald Trump promised to implement throughout his campaign exemplify xenophobia, including building a wall between the United States and Mexico, as well as banning Muslims from entering the country. Trump made many Americans regard foreigners — Muslims and Latinos in particular — as people to be feared.
The United States was not alone in being bombarded with xenophobic rhetoric. According to The Huffington Post, searches for “xenophobia” on Dictionary.com surged following the United Kingdom’s controversial Brexit vote back in June.
Many people voted in favor of the UK leaving the European Union on the grounds that doing so would allow Britain to clamp down on immigration.
“Xenophobia and other words tied to global news and political rhetoric reflected the worldwide interest in the unfortunate rise of fear of otherness in 2016, making it the clear choice for Word of the Year,” said Liz McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com.
“While we can never know the exact reasons why xenophobia trended in our lookups this year, this reflects a desire in our users to understand the significant discourse surrounding global events,” she added.
Based on the significant political events of the year and how they’ve affected the social discourse in the United States and abroad, xenophobia is more than appropriate to be deemed Word of the Year — but that is certainly not a good thing.
The word we really need to be seeing a lot more of during these tense times is unity.
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