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harsh words

The word of 2016? Xenophobia

Quite literally. has announced xenophobia, defined as ‘dislike of people from other countries’, as its word of the year.

GOP 2016 Trump Protest A Donald Trump supporter clashing with protesters outside a rally in California in May of this year AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

THE 2016 WORD of the year has been announced as ‘xenophobia’.

The award is given each year by website

Xenophobia, defined as a ‘dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries’, is often used in the context of anti-immigration sentiment amongst other things in individual countries.

It has been suggested that much of the enthusiasm for anti-migration campaigns such as those of Brexit and President-Elect of the United States Donald Trump was xenophobic in nature. says it picks its word of the year as one “that embodies a major theme resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness over the prior 12 months”.

“This year, some of the most prominent news stories have centered around fear of the ‘other’,” the website said in a statement announcing its ‘winner’.


Fear is an adaptive part of human evolutionary history and often influences behaviors and perceptions on a subconscious level. However, this particular year saw fear rise to the surface of cultural discourse.

The largest spike in interest in the word ‘xenophobia’, as measured by, was seen on 24 June this year, the day after the UK Brexit referendum, which indicates that hundreds of users were looking up the term each hour.

Last year’s word of the year was ‘identity’ (which was in reference to new ways in which people had been discussing the concept of identity), 2014′s was ‘vape’ (as in to use an e-cigarette), and 2013′s was ‘privacy’ (linked to stories from that year such as the leaking of confidential US NSA documents to the media by Edward Snowden).

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