These are all of the words-of-the-year winners from the American Dialect Society, from the year the vote was first held, 1990, to today. The vote takes place at our annual conference each January. Look for conference information on this site.
2011 | 2010 | 2009; Word of the Decade | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | Words of the Millennium, Century, and Decade | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990
If there are numbers after a word and its definition, they represent the final vote tallies at the annual meeting. If there are two numbers separated by a forward slash, then there was a runoff vote and each number represents a different vote.
Our criteria for words of the year are that the words be:
— demonstrably new or newly popular in the year in question
— widely and/or prominently used in the year in question
— indicative or reflective of the popular discourse
— not a peeve or a complaint about overuse or misuse
2011 Words of the Year
occupy – verb, noun, and combining form referring to the Occupy protest movement. 82/174 WINNER
FOMO – acronym for “Fear of Missing Out,” describing anxiety over being inundated by information on social media. 41/28
the 99%, 99 percenters – those held to be at a financial or political disadvantage to the top moneymakers, the one-percenters. 43/24
humblebrag – expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter. 30
job creator – a member of the top one-percent of moneymakers. 4
humblebrag – expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter. 87/121 WINNER
occupy – verb, noun, and combining form referring to the Occupy protest movement. 70/102
FOMO – acronym for “Fear of Missing Out,” describing anxiety over being inundated by information on social media. 25
tablet – lightweight portable computer with a touchscreen to input data. 30
Mellencamp – a woman who has aged out of being a “cougar” (after John Cougar Mellencamp). 103 WINNER
bunga bunga – name for sex parties allegedly involving former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. 21
kardash – unit of measurement consisting of 72 days, after the short-lived marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (coined by Weird Al Yankovic). 82
put a bird on it – to add artistic flair to something, usu. used ironically or humorously. 23
bi-winning – term used by Charlie Sheen to describe himself pridefully, dismissing accusations of being bipolar. 77/156 WINNER
amazeballs – slang form for “amazing.” 82/85
planking – posing for a photograph, esp. in a public place, with one’s body in a stiff, prone position, for circulation online. 13
Qwikster : short-lived Netflix spinoff of its DVD rental service, separated from its streaming. 44
assholocracy – rule by obnoxious multi-millionaires. 166 WINNER
deather – one who doubts the official story of the killing of Osama bin Laden. 35
botoxionist – a doctor who administers Botox injections. 1
job creator – a member of the top one-percent of moneymakers. 111 WINNER
artisan, artisanal – faux-fancy term used to describe food and other products. 78
regime alteration – alternative to “regime change” promoted by Obama administration in some Middle Eastern countries. 19
sugar-coated Satan sandwich : something bad on the inside that looks good on the outside, as used by Missouri U.S Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. 1
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
cloud – online space for the large-scale processing and storage of data. 155 WINNER
Arab Spring – a series of popular uprisings in Middle Eastern countries against dictatorial regimes. 54
tiger mom, tiger mother – an exceedingly strict parent (after Amy Chua’s memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”).
LEAST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
brony – adult male fan of the “My Little Pony” cartoon franchise. 103 WINNER
Tebowing – posing for photograph praying on one knee, after Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. 47
9-9-9 – tax plan proposed by Herman Cain (9% business tax, 9% personal income tax, 9% federal sales tax). 65
OCCUPY WORDS (new category)
the 99%, 99 percenters – those held to be at a financial or political disadvantage to the top moneymakers, the one-percenters. n-percenters, n-percent. 219 WINNER
occupy – verb, noun, and combining form referring to the Occupy protest movement. 17
people’s mic, human microphone – method of amplifying a person’s speech by having surrounding people repeat it line by line 7
twinkling – system of wiggly hand gestures to register approval or disapproval. 9
2010 Word of the Year
app : application program for a computer or phone operating system. As in “there’s an app for that,” an advertising slogan for the iPhone. 52/69 WINNER
nom: Onomatopoetic form connoting eating, esp. pleasurably. Can be used as an interjection or noun to refer to delicious food. 34/51.
junk as used in junk shot (attempt to fix BP oil spill), junk status (Greece’s credit rating), don’t touch my junk (protest against TSA pat-down procedure). 17
Wikileaks as proper noun, common noun, and verb. 12
trend verb: to exhibit a burst of online buzz. 12
nom Onomatopoetic form connoting eating, esp. pleasurably. Can be used as an interjection or noun to refer to delicious food. 49/72 WINNER
fat-finger verb: to mistype, as by accidentally striking more than one key on a keyboard/pad. 16
junk junk shot (attempt to fix BP oil spill), junk status (Greece’s credit rating), don’t touch my junk (protest against TSA pat-down procedure). 46/42
vuvuzela : South African plastic trumpet used by fans during the FIFA World Cup matches.
prehab Preemptive enrollment in a rehab facility to prevent relapse of an abuse problem. 45/65 WINNER
-sauce Intensive suffix, as in awesome-sauce ‘great’ and lame-sauce ‘stupid’. 37/51
spillion An immense number, especially of gallons of oil in the Gulf spill. Also spillionaire, person made rich by money from BP’s spill cleanup fund. 29
phoenix firm A troubled company that reemerges under a new name. 13
refudiate Blend of refute and repudiate used by Sarah Palin on Twitter. 72/WINNER
ironic moustache Facial hair worn as a statement of retro hipsterdom. 6
star whacker Imagined celebrity killer (alleged by actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi). 16
hipsterdom : the state of being hip beyond all recognition. So hip you’re unhip. 14
gate rape Pejorative term for invasive new airport pat-down procedure. 55/67 WINNER
terror baby Baby born to a terrorist family on U.S. soil in order to establish citizenship. 52/56
bed intruder Perpetrator of a home invasion in Huntsville, Ala., made famous by viral video. 22
kinetic event Pentagon term for violent attacks on troops in Afghanistan. 84/WINNER
corn sugar Corn Refiners Association’s rebranding of high fructose corn syrup. 1.
enhanced pat-down TSA’s term for controversial new frisking procedure. 21
bed intruder Perpetrator of a home invasion in Huntsville, Ala., made famous by viral video. 19
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
trend Verb: to exhibit a burst of online buzz. 73/WINNER
hacktivism Using computer hacking skills as a form of political or social activism. 34
-pad Combining form used by iPad and other tablet computers (ViewPad, WindPad, etc.). 22
telework Term used at federal level for work by an employee away from the office. 9
LEAST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
culturomics Research project from Google analyzing the history of language and culture 44/85 WINNER
fauxhemian Winner of a Gawker poll to replace the term “hipster.” 31
skyaking Jumping out of a plane in a kayak. 47/33
top kill / top hat / junk shot Various failed techniques to fix the BP oil spill. 11
ELECTION TERMS (new category)
All terms agreed to be losers. The entire category was deleted by acclamation.
Aqua Buddha Fictitious deity in collegiate scandal involving Rand Paul, raised during his Kentucky Senate campaign.
mama grizzly Sarah Palin’s term for a fiercely conservative female candidate.
man up Exhortation to be responsible or “act like a man,” used by Sharron Angle against Harry Reid in Nevada Senate race.
Obamacare Pejorative term for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
FAN WORDS (new category)
gleek A fan of the TV show “Glee” (Glee + geek) 90 WINNER
belieber A fan of pop singer Justin Bieber (Bieber + believer) 3
little monster A fan of pop singer Lady Gaga, so called by the singer herself. 0
Twihard A fan of the “Twilight” books and movies. 7
Yat Dat A native-born fan of the New Orleans Saints. 14
2009 Word of the Year: tweet, noun, a short message sent via the Twitter.com service, and verb, the act of sending such a message WORD OF THE DECADE WINNER: google Verb meaning “to search the Internet.” Generic form of the trademarked “Google,” the world’s dominant Internet search engine. MOST USEFUL fail A noun or interjection used when something is egregiously unsuccessful. Usually written as “FAIL!” MOST CREATIVE: Dracula sneeze : Covering one’s mouth with the crook of one’s elbow when sneezing, seen as similar to popular portrayals of the vampire Dracula, in which he hides the lower half of his face with a cape. MOST UNNECESSARY sea kittens fish (according to PETA) Most Outrageous death panel A supposed committee of doctors and/or bureaucrats who would decide which patients were allowed to receive treatment, ostensibly leaving the rest to die. MOST EUPHEMISTIC hike the Appalachian trail To go away to have sex with one’s illicit lover. Follows on a statement by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who went to Argentina to visit his mistress. Most Likely to Succeed twenty-ten A pronunciation of the year 2010, as opposed to saying “two thousand ten” or “two thousand and ten.” (twenty- as prefix until 2099) Least Likely to Succeed name of the decade 2000-2009, such as Naughties, Aughties, Oughties, etc.
2008 Word of the Year: bailout, the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry. Most Useful: Barack Obama, both names as combining forms. Most Creative: recombobulation area, an area at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee in which passengers that have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order. Most Unnecesssary: moofing, from “mobile out of office,” meaning working on the go with a laptop and cell phone. Created by a PR firm. Most Outrageous: terrorist fist jab, A knuckle-to-knuckle fist bump, or “dap,” traditionally performed between two black people as a sign of friendship, celebration or agreement. It was called the “terrorist fist jab” by the newscaster E. D. Hill, formerly of Fox News. Most Euphemistic: scooping technician, A person whose job it is to pick up dog poop. Most Likely to Succeeed: shovel-ready, Used to describe infrastructure projects that can be started quickly when funds become available. Least Likely to Succeed: PUMA,An acronym for Party Unity My Ass, used by Democrats who were disaffected after Hillary Clinton failed to secure a sufficient number of delegates. It was later said to stand for Party Unity Means Action. New Category, Election-Related Words: maverick, a person who is beholden to no one. Widely used by the Republican Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Also in the adjectival form mavericky, used by Tina Fey portraying Palin on Saturday Night Live.
2007 Word of the Year: subprime, an adjective used to describe a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage, or investment. Most Useful: green- prefix/compounding form, designates environmental concern, as in greenwashing. Most Creative: googlegänger, a person with your name who shows up when you google yourself. Most Unnecesssary: Happy Kwanhanamas! [Kwanza + Hanukka + Christmas] Happy holidays! Most Outrageous: toe-tapper, A homosexual. Senator Larry Craig was arrested in June for an encounter in a public restroom in which toe-tapping was said to have been used as a sexual come-on. Most Euphemistic: human terrain team, a group of social scientists employed by the US military to serve as cultural advisers in Iraq or Afghanistan. Most Likely to Succeeed: green- prefix/compounding form, designates environmental concern, as in greenwashing. Least Likely to Succeed: strand-in, protest duplicating being stranded inside an airplane on a delayed flight. New Category, Real Estate Words: subprime, used to describe a risky or poorly documented loan or mortgage.
2006 Word of the Year: to be plutoed, to pluto, to be demoted or devalued. Most Useful: climate canary, an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon. Most Creative: lactard, a person who is lactose-intolerant. Most Unnecessary: SuriKat, the supposed nickname of the baby girl of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Most Outrageous: Cambodian accessory, Angelina Jolie’s adopted child who is Cambodian. Most Euphemistic: waterboarding, an interrogation technique in which the subject is immobilized and doused with water to simulate drowning; reported to be used by U.S. interrogators against terrorism detainees. Most Likely to Succeed: YouTube as a verb, to use the YouTube web site or to have a video of one’s self be posted on the site. Least Likely to Succeed: grup, a Gen-Xer who does not act his or her age. New Category, Pluto-Related Words: to be plutoed, to pluto, to be demoted or devalued.
2005 Word of the Year: truthiness, what one wishes to be the truth regardless of the facts. (From the Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert, a mock news show on Comedy Central.) Most Useful: podcast, audio or video file for downloading. Most Creative: whale-tail, the appearance of thong or g-string underwaear above the waistband. Most Unnecessary: K Fed, Kevin Federline, Mr. Britney Spears. Most Outrageous: crotchfruit, a child or children. Most Euphemistic: internal nutrition force-feeding a prisoner. Most Likely to Succeed: sudoku number puzzle from Japan. Least Likely to Succeed: pope-squatting registering a likely domain name of a new pope before the pope chooses his new name in order to profit from it. Special nonce category, Best Tom Cruise-Related Word: jump the couch, to exhibit frenetic behavior like Cruise’s couch-bouncing on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show.
2004 Word of the Year: red/blue/purple states, red favoring conservative Republicans and blue favoring liberal Democrats, as well as the undecided purple states in the political map of the United States. Most Useful: phish, to induce someone to reveal private information by means of deceptive e-mail. Most Creative: pajamahadeen, bloggers who challenge and fact-check traditional media. Most Unnecessary: stalkette, a female stalker. Most Outrageous: santorum, byproduct of anal sex, using the name of a senator opposed to the practice. Most Euphemistic: badly sourced, false. Most Likely to Succeed: red/blue/purple states. Least Likely to Succeed: FLOHPA, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, important states in the 2004 presidential election.
2003 Word of the Year: metrosexual, fashion-conscious heterosexual male. Most Useful: flexitarian, vegetarian who occasionally eats meat. Most Creative: freegan, person who eats only free food. Most Unnecessary: freedom for “French,” as in fries and kisses. Most Outrageous: cliterati, feminist writers or leaders. Most Euphemistic: pre-emptive self-defense, attack before a possible attack on oneself. Most Likely to Succeed: SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, viral disease first reported in Asia in February. Least Likely to Succeed: tomacco, poisonous hybrid of tomato and tobacco. Best Revival of an old term: spider hole, World War II term for a hole deeper than a foxhole used for surprise attacks; in 2003, where Saddam Hussein was hiding.
2002 Word of the Year: weapons of mass destruction or WMD, sought for in Iraq. Most Likely to Succeed: blog, from “weblog,” a website of personal events, comments, and links. Most Useful: google (verb), as in “to google someone,” to search the Web using the search engine Google for information on a person or thing. Most Creative: Iraqnophobia, strong fear of Iraq. Most Unnecessary: wombanization, feminization, from Alexander Barnes’s book “The Book Read Backwards: The Deconstruction of Patriarchy and the Wombanization of Being.” Most Outrageous: neuticles, fake testicles for neutered pets. Most Euphemistic: regime change, forced change in leadership.
2001 Word of the Year: 9-11, 9/11 or September 11, terrorist attacks on that date. Most Likely to Succeed: 9-11. Most Useful (tie): facial profiling, using video “faceprints” to identify terrorists and criminals, and second-hand speech, cell phone conversations heard by others in public places. Most Creative: shuicide bomber, terrorist with bomb in shoes. Most Unnecessary: impeachment nostalgia, longing for the superficial news of the Clinton era. Least Likely to Succeed: Osamaniac, woman sexually attracted to terrorist Osama bin Laden. Most Outrageous: assoline, methane used as fuel. Most Euphemistic: daisy cutter, large bomb that explodes a few feet above the ground. Most Inspirational: Let’s roll! words of Todd Beamer to start the attack that foiled the hijackers of United Flight 93 on September 11.
2000 Word of the Year: chad, a small scrap of paper punched from a voting card. Most Likely to Succeed: muggle, Harry Potter term for a non-wizard; a mundane, unimaginative person. Most Useful: civil union, legal same-sex marriage. Most Creative: dot bomb, a failed dot-com. Most Unnecessary: sudden loss of wealth syndrome. Least Likely to Succeed: kablokeys, used in phrases like “It scared the kablokeys out of me.” Most Outrageous: wall humping, rubbing a thigh against a security card scanner to allow access without removing the card from one’s pocket. Most Euphemistic: courtesy call, an uninvited call from a telemarketer. Brand New (coined during the year, not previously attested): unconcede, to rescind a concession as presidential candidate Al Gore did on election night. (It was later discovered that candidate Bob Dole had unconceded the presidential election in 1996, and there were occasional instances of that word going back several centuries.)
Also chosen in January 2000: Word of the Decade: web. Word of the Twentieth Century: jazz. Word of the Millennium: she.
1999 Word of the Year: Y2K. Most Likely to Succeed and Most Useful: dot-com, a company operating on the web. Most Original: cybersquat, to register a web address intending to sell it at a profit. Most unnecessary: Milly, dance commissioned by the city of Chicago for the millennium. Most Outrageous: humanitarian intervention, use of military force for humanitarian purposes. Most Euphemistic: compassionate conservative. Brand New (coined during the year, not previously attested): Pokémania, obsession with Pokémon.
1998 Word of the Year: prefix e- for “electronic” as in e-mail and newly prominent e-commerce. Most Likely to Succeed and Most Useful: e-. Most Original: multislacking, playing at the computer when one should be working. Most Unnecessary: the entire Monica Lewinsky word family, including Big She as a synonym for M.L., and the verb Lewinsky, to engage in what might be sexual relations. Least Likely to Succeed: compfusion, confusion over computers. Most Outrageous: Ejaculation Proclamation, the President’s confession. Most Euphemistic: senior moment, momentary lapse of memory due to age. Brand New (coined during the year, not previously attested): -agra or -gra (from the drug name Viagra), suffix denoting substance prompting men to perform unusually, as in Directra that causes men to ask for directions.
1997 Word of the Year: millennium bug, also known as Y2K bug or Y2K problem, that causes computers to think that the year after 1999 is 1900. Most Likely to Succeed: DVD, Digital Versatile Disk, optical disk expected to replace CDs. Most Useful: (tie) -[r]azzi, an aggressive pursuer, and duh (with a falling intonation), expression of someone else’s stupidity. Most Original: prairie dogging, popping one’s head above an office cubicle for the sake of curiosity. Most Unnecessary: heaven-o, replacement for “hello.” Most Outrageous: Florida flambe, fire caused by Florida electric chair. Most Euphemistic: exit bag, bag placed over the head to assist in suicide. Brand New (coined during the year, not previously attested): El Nonsense, illogical association of an event with El Niño.
1996 Word of the Year: mom as in soccer mom, newly significant type of voter. Most Likely to Succeed: drive-by, designating brief visits or hospital stays. Most Useful: dot, used instead of “period” in e-mail and URL addresses. Most Original: prebuttal, preemptive rebuttal. Most Unnecessary: Mexican hustle, another name for the Macarena (which is not Mexican). Most Outrageous: toy soldier, land mine. Most Euphemistic: (tie) urban camping, living homeless in a city, and food insecure, said of a country where people are starving. Most Controversial: Ebonics, African-American vernacular English.
1995 Word of the Year: (tie) World Wide Web on the Internet, and newt, to make aggressive changes as a newcomer. Most Likely to Succeed: World Wide Web and its variants the Web, WWW, W3. Most Useful: E.Q. (for Emotional Quotient), the ability to manage one’s emotions. Most Original: postal or go postal, to act irrationally, often violently, from stress at work. Most Unnecessary: Vanna White shrimp, large shrimp for the restaurant market. Most Outrageous: starter marriage, a first marriage not expected to be the last. Most Euphemistic: patriot, one who believes in using force of arms if necessary to defend individual rights against the government.
1994 Word of the Year: (tie) cyber, pertaining to computers and electronic communication, and morph, to change form. Most Promising: Infobahn, the Internet. Most Useful: gingrich, to deal with government agencies, policies, and people in the manner of U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Most Imaginative: guillermo, an e-mail message in a foreign language. (The Spanish name Guillermo has the nicknameMemo.) Most Trendy: dress down day or casual day, a workday when employees are allowed to dress casually. Most Euphemistic: challenged indicating an undesirable or unappealing condition. Most Beautiful: sylvanshine, night-time iridescence of certain forest trees.
1993 Word of the Year: information superhighway, network linking computers, television, telephone, and other electronic means of communication. Most Likely to Succeed: quotative like with a form of the verb be to indicate speech or thought. Most Useful: thing premodified by a noun, e.g. “a Chicago thing.” Most Imaginative: McJob, a generic, unstimulating, low-paying job. Most Amazing: cybersex, sexual stimulation by computer. Most Unnecessary: mosaic culture to describe a multicultural society. Most Outrageous: whirlpooling, assault of a female by a male group in a swimming pool. Most Euphemistic: street builder, a homeless person who constructs a shanty. Most Unpronounceable: Jurassosaurus nedegoapeferkimorum, a new dinosaur.
1992 Word of the Year: Not! expression of disagreement. Most Likely to Succeed: snail mail, s-mail, mail that is physically delivered, as opposed to e-mail. Most Useful: grunge, a style of clothing. Most Original: Franken-, genetically altered. Most Amazing: Munchhausen’s syndrome by proxy, illness fabricated to evoke sympathy for the caregiver. Most Unnecessary: gender feminism, belief that sex roles are social, not biological. Most Outrageous: ethnic cleansing, purging of ethnic minorities.
1991 Word of the Year: mother of all -, greatest, most impressive. Most Likely to Succeed: rollerblade, skate with rollers in a single row. Most Successful: in your face, aggressive, confrontational, flamboyant. Most Original: molecular pharming, pharming, genetically modifying farm animals to produce human proteins for pharmaceutical use. Most Amazing: velcroid, a person who sticks by the (U.S.) president, especially for photo opportunities. Most Unnecessary: massively parallel, many small computers yoked together.
1990 Word of the Year: bushlips, insincere political rhetoric. Most Likely to Succeed: (tie) notebook PC, a portable personal computer weighting 4-8 pounds, and rightsizing, adjusting the size of a staff by laying off employees. Most Useful: (tie) technostupidity, loss of ability through dependence on machines, and potty parity, equalization of toilet facilities for the sexes. Most Original: voice merging, the oral tradition of African-American preachers using another’s words. Most Amazing: bungee jumping, jumping from a high platform with elastic cables on the feet. Most Unnecessary: peace dividend, anticipated saving in military spending due to improved relations with the Soviet Union. Most Outrageous: politically correct, PC, adhering to principles of left-wing social concern.