Dictionary.com's word of the year is 'xenophobia'

Global events and the fear of the "other" led to the online dictionary picking this year's word.

Global events and the fear of the "other" led to Dictionary.com choosing "xenophobia" as its word of the year for 2016. 

"Xenophobia," which first appeared in English back in the late 1800s, is defined by the website as "fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers" and "fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc. of people who are culturally different from oneself."

Dictionary.com says some of the most prominent news stories this year have been based on this fear: police shootings, Syria's refugee crisis, the Brexit vote, transsexual rights, and the presidential election.

“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," Liz McMillan, CEO, Dictionary.com, said in a news release

"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."

The largest surge in "xenophobia" lookups this year came in June, the day after the Brexit vote, the release says. Lookups for the word spiked by 938 percent from June 22 to June 24, The Associated Press reports.

The next largest jump in lookups came in connection to the U.S. presidential race, after President Barack Obama said Donald Trump's political rhetoric was not an example of populism, but of "nativism or xenophobia."

Lookups for "xenophobe" spiked following the election too, USA Today reported. Dictionary.com says the United States also saw the rise of other words like the "alt-right," "white nationalism," and other ideologies that promote fear or hate, especially towards minority groups.

In regards to Dictionary.com picking "xenophobia" as its word of the year, Robert Reich, professor at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy said in a statement the website "is right to make 'xenophobia' the word of the year, but it is also one of the biggest threats we face.

"It is not a word to be celebrated. It is a sentiment to be fought," he added.

And Dictionary.com isn't the only dictionary to reflect the tone of 2016 in its word of the year. The Oxford dictionary chose "post-truth" as its 2016 word for its use in the noun "post-truth politics."

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