Hashtag crowned UK children's word of the year

There has been a huge increase in the use of the word among the under-13s

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Like it, loathe it or never heard of it – but you're about to see a lot more of the infuriating, amusing and downright bizarre new UK children's word of the year.

'Hashtag', the term for the symbol '#' used on social media, most commonly on Twitter, has seen a huge increase in use by the under-13s, an analysis of the annual Radio 2 500 words short story competition by Oxford University Press has revealed.

It is used to add emphasis to a subject or to weigh in on whatever the most talked about - or 'trending' - topic of the day is, from #summer to #schoolholidays, #seppblatter to #syria.

But, as the competition showed, children are now extending the word's use from online social media, to short stories and even the spoken word, too. 

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Researchers looked at 120,421 entries to the competition, which was launched in 2011, to examine how British children use English.

They found that 'troll' - meaning an internet bully - and 'Zoella', an American vlogger, were talked about frequently.

And while kids write about topical issues, such as Ebola and the first world war, there's an undeniable emphasis on social media, with some of the top 20 words of 2015 ranging from 'selfie', 'blog', 'YouTube', 'iPhone' and 'youtuber'.

'MP3', 'Playstation', 'iPod', 'Nintendo', 'Blackberry' and 'TV', on the other hand, have gone down in popularity by 10 per cent.

Other more unusual entries included 'Baymax' (a Marvel superhero), 'hillfort' (a hideout in the video game Minecraft) and 'animatronic' (also from a video game), the Daily Telegraph reported.

Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries at OUP, told The Guardian that it showed that kids are "true innovators" and are using more vocabulary, not less.

And she said that 'hashtag', or '#', had been crowned word of the year because it is entering their vocabulary in a new way.

“Children are not tweeting and using Twitter, but they are using the word hashtag and the symbol # for dramatic effect, it is heightening tension," Ms Gupta added.

In addition, the researchers found that when it comes to gender, girls will write enthusiastically about cupcakes, unicorns and marshmallows - while boys are more excited about burgers, space, cars and farting.

The most annoying hashtags (compiled by The Independent)