Vape chosen as Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year for 2014

Lexiconists from Oxford Dictionaries examined millions of words, including bae and slacktivism, to find word best representing past year

Rose Troup Buchanan
Tuesday 18 November 2014 10:31

Vape has been chosen as the word of the year by editorial staff at Oxford Dictionaries.

Use of the word, defined as to “inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device”, has more than doubled over the course of the year to win.

The shortlist, which included contenders such as bae, slacktivism and indyref, is compiled by scanning around 150m words of English in use every month – using software to identify new or emerging usage – before lexicographers select a shortlist from which the winner is chosen.

The winning word should “reflect the ethos, mood or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance”.

Vaping was first coined in the 1980s when companies such as RJR began experimenting with the first ‘smokeless cigarettes’.

“A gap emerged in the lexicon, as a word was needed to describe this activity, and distinguish it from ‘smoking’,” said Oxford’s experts of the rise of vaping and accompanying lexicon.

“It’s hard to anticipate what’s going to capture the public imagination at any given moment,” president of Oxford’s dictionaries division Casper Grathwohl told TIME. “Vape only really caught on a few years ago and now we’ve seen a dramatic rise.”

He added: “A word is just the surface of something that often has a really complex and rich life underneath”.

The OED receives updates with new words, phrases and senses added every three months

Oxford Dictionaries’ editorial director Judy Pearsall added: “As vaping has gone mainstream, with celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to Barry Manilow giving it a go, and with growing public debate on the public dangers and the need for regulation, so the language usage of the word ‘vape’ and related terms in 2014 has shown a marked increase”.

The vaping market has exploded recently, capturing new markets as much of the public cottons to an alternative to traditional smoking, and with such interest new words have become publicly recognisable, including vaper, vapoholic, vaporium, carto, e-juice.

Other contenders such as bae, generally taken to be a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner, were did not make the top grade - perhaps in an attempt to be a little more serious about the exercise than last year, which saw selfie championed as 2013’s word of the year.

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