Dictionary.com has announced its word of the year, and that word is . . . “existential.” Yeah, it’s actually a more depressing word than 2018’s word of the year, which was “misinformation.” But Dictionary.com says the word is appropriate considering all the horrifying stuff that’s occurred in 2019 that threatens the existence of democratic institutions, life, and even the planet itself.
There's something rather existential about the 2019 #WordOfTheYear.
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) December 2, 2019
As Dictionary.com explains in a blog post:
High-stakes events around the world involving climate change, gun violence, and democratic institutions were some of the top news stories. And words about these events, from polar vortex to stochastic terrorism to exonerate, were top searches and trends on Dictionary.com.
Notable among searches was existential, which we’ve chosen as our Word of the Year for 2019. It captures a sense of grappling with the survival—literally and figuratively—of our planet, our loved ones, our ways of life.
However, the site notes that even existential threats can have some benefits:
But, existential also inspires us to ask big questions about who we are and what our purpose is in the face of our various challenges—and it reminds us that we can make choices about our lives in how we answer those questions.
The site’s 2019 runner-up word of the year, on a more positive note, was “nonbinary”:
Some of the most salient additions to our dictionary this year were terms inclusive of trans and nonbinary people, such as womxn, an alternative spelling of women used especially to include trans and nonbinary women. The letter X, as a gender-neutral and nonbinary marker, also appears in Latinx and Chicanx, respectively used for people of Latin American and Mexican American descent.
As Dictionary.com points out: “In the year 2019, defined by existential threats and crises, the ability to define who we are is a powerful and inspiring example of taking existential control over our lives.”