Cambridge Dictionary word of the year influenced by Wordle

The word of the year led thousands of Wordle players to lose their streak

Laura Hampson
Thursday 17 November 2022 06:39 GMT
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Donald Trump plays Wordle on SNL cold open

Cambridge Dictionary has announced its 2022 word of the year, and says it was inspired by word game sensation, Wordle.

The Cambridge Dictionary word of the year for 2022 is “homer”, with editors citing the word as causing many Wordle players to lose their streaks when the unfamiliar term was used.

Wordle, which was created last year but went viral in January 2022 before being acquired by the New York Times, sees players across the world have six attempts to guess the five letter word of the day.

Homer, an informal American-English word for a home run in baseball, was searched for nearly 75,000 times during the first week of May when it was an answer in the online five-letter word puzzle.

The majority of searches (95 per cent) for homer came outside of North America where the word originates, as players struggled to understand what the word meant.

Homer became Cambridge dictionary’s highest-spiking word of the year, and editors said five-letter Wordle answers dominated searches this year as the game became a global phenomenon.

The second highest spike in searches was the American spelling of “humor”, followed by “caulk”. American players got disgruntled when the word “bloke” was used in July.

Wendalyn Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary publishing manager, said: “Wordle’s words, and the public’s reactions to them, illustrate how English speakers continue to be divided over differences between English language varieties, even when they’re playing a globally popular new word game that has brought people together online for friendly competition about language.

“The differences between British and American English are always of interest not just to learners of English but to English speakers globally, and word games are also perennially entertaining.

“We’ve seen those two phenomena converge in the public conversations about Wordle, and the way five-letter words have simply taken over the lookups on the Cambridge Dictionary website.”

Wordle went viral in January this year
Wordle went viral in January this year (AFP via Getty Images)

Other high-interest words seen by the dictionary this year included “oligarch”, likely triggered by new international sanctions and geopolitical shifts amid Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, and “vulnerable”, which may have been prompted by inflation and the cost of living crisis.

“Ableist” spiked during the controversy over the use of an ableist slur in lyrics to the song “Grrrls” by Lizzo.

Additions to the Cambridge Dictionary this year have included “shrinkflation”, defined as the situation when the price of a product stays the same but its size gets smaller.

Lexicographers are considering several other new words for inclusion, with “digital amnesia” among those on the list, which is defined as a condition where people become less able to remember things because they are used to looking everything up on the internet.

Additional reporting by PA

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