The Collins dictionary names “permacrysis” as its word of the year 2022


LONDON – We’ve all lived in a permanent state of crisis, a “permacrisis” if you will, according to UK-based Collins Dictionary lexicographers who named it word of the year for 2022.

The portmanteau describes the feeling of “living [a] period of war, inflation and political instability “and” sums up quite succinctly how terrible 2022 really was for so many people, “the company said in a statement Tuesday.

“Permacrisis”, which the publisher defines as “a long period of instability and insecurity” is just one of the few words relating to the challenges posed by climate change, the war in Europe, the cost of living crisis and, in many circles, political chaos. It was first used in academic settings in the 1970s, according to Collins, but has seen a spike in use in recent months.

“It was very clear this year that the conversation was dominated by the crisis,” Helen Newstead, a consultant for language content at the Collins Dictionary, told the Washington Post.

His team examines the “Collins Corpus”, an 18 billion-word database, in making their choice, as well as taking “snapshots” at intervals throughout the year to analyze newspapers and social media among other sources, he said, to find new words and more use.

“The permacrisis,” said Newstead, encompasses “the transition from one crisis to another without really taking a breath.”

“I think it sounds … like something everyone can relate to,” he said.

“There wasn’t much to celebrate,” he continued, noting that the word of the year captures “the way we all feel right now, sadly.”

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In 2020, Collins chose “block” as word of the year amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Last year she opted for “NFT”, a non-fungible token, which is a unique digital representation of an asset – usually art – similar to a certificate of authenticity or a deed.

Another word to make the list this year was “Partygate”, referring to the British scandal over social gatherings held by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his colleagues at No. 10. Downing Street, despite government restrictions.

Also on the list is “Carolean”, the formal name for the new era of King Charles III after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September.

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“Quiet quitting” also made the list and gained popularity, according to the dictionary. It defines the movement, mostly of Gen Z youth and millennial workers, to give up the culture of hustle and bustle by committing to work no more than contractually required and to devote more time to quality-of-life activities.

Newstead said the word went “viral” and “hit the ropes”, especially after the pandemic, “when we all had an existential crisis” and tried to reshape workplace rules and prioritize work-life balance.

The “cute sounding” word “splooting” also made it into the dictionary list, denoting a position assumed by animals in the heat as they spread their legs and arms to cool off, delighting pet owners and viewers.

Words like “mood change”, “law” and “sports wash” were among others that made Collins’ list.

“Language can be a mirror of what is happening in society,” Collins Learning CEO Alex Beecroft said in a statement, adding that 2022 has “raised challenge after challenge.”

“Our list this year reflects the state of the world right now – not much good news,” Beecroft added, citing rising energy prices, bad weather and the persistent impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Work will begin in the second half of next year, Newstead said, to find the word that defines our concerns in 2023.