“Post-truth” – an adjective defined as “relating to, or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” – has been selected by the dictionary’s editors as the defining word of 2016.
The word was selected thanks to a spike in use related to the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the U.S. presidential election. Oxford Dictionaries said that use of the term rose 2,000 per cent between 2015 and 2016.
But Oxford Dictionaries said the term “post-truth politics” specifically captured their interest – a term that became widely used by pundits and media organizations when covering Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Obama founded ISIS. George Bush was behind 9/11. Welcome to post-truth politics https://t.co/QYrx76krF0
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) November 1, 2016
Worth a read – a disturbing comment on the role of data, facts, and emotion. The Age of Post-Truth Politics https://t.co/s2jGl9oF6g
— Dan Vimont (@DanVimont) November 15, 2016
The Economist, for example, described Trump as the “leading exponent” of post-truth politics, “a reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact.” An example of this would be when Trump accused President Barack Obama of establishing the Islamic State group.
“Post-truth has gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary,” read Oxford Dictionaries post announcing the Word of the Year.
“The term has moved from being relatively new to being widely understood in the course of a year — demonstrating its impact on the national and international consciousness.”
Are we all "feeling" the new Oxford Dictionary word "post-truth" – objective facts are less influential than emotional appeals
— Karen Tso (@cnbcKaren) November 16, 2016
"Post-truth" is such an awful, misleading, over-polite and inaccurate description of the of the phenomenon it tries to describe, ironically.
— Rupert Myers (@RupertMyers) November 16, 2016
The new Word of the Year has been met with mixed reaction on social media; though many people seemed relieved that Oxford Dictionaries had returned to words, instead of emoji. Last year, the dictionary declared the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji was the word of the year, much to the disappointment of language experts.
What a difference a year makes…
Word of the year 2015: 😂
Word of the year 2016: Post-truth
— Alexander Britton (@adbritton) November 16, 2016
But post-truth wasn’t the only political term to capture the interest of dictionary editors this year. Included on the shortlist for Word of the Year was, “alt-right,” an ideology associated with extreme conservative viewpoints; “glass cliff,” used in reference to a woman or member of a minority rising to a place of leadership in challenging circumstances; and “Brexiteer,” a person in favour of the U.K. leaving the European Union.
That being said “adulting,” the practice of behaving like a responsible adult, and “coulrophobia,” irrational fear of clowns, also made the short list.
(Though an irrational fear of clowns may have been warranted after a spike in creepy clown sightings over the last few months.)