‘Perseverance’ named Cambridge Dictionary’s word of the year

Searches for the meaning of the word spiked after Nasa’s Perseverance Rover landed on Mars

Kate Ng
Wednesday 17 November 2021 09:28
Sounds of Mars captured by Perseverance rover

Cambridge Dictionary’s word of the year for 2021 has been revealed as “perseverance”.

The word was inspired by Nasa’s mission to Mars, as data showed that users across the globe searched for the word online more than 243,000 times throughout the year.

The dictionary found there was a surge in searches for the meaning of “perseverance” between 18 and 24 February, after Nasa’s Perseverance Rover landed on Mars.

“Perseverance” is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as a “continued effort to do or achieve something, even when this is difficult or takes a long time”.

The word is “almost always a positive word that expresses our admiration for people who keep going in difficult situations”, wrote the editors.

They added that people had shown the meaning of the word “in the face of challenges and disruption to our lives from Covid-19 and other problems”.

Wendalyn Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary publishing manager, said it “made sense” that searches for the word spiked after the descent of the Mars Rover.

“Cambridge Dictionary is the top website in the world for learners of English, and perseverance is not a common word for students of English to have in their vocabulary," she said.

"We often see spikes in look-ups of words associated with current events when those words are less familiar."

She said editors felt it was an appropriate word for the year, given the challenges of 2021.

"Just as it takes perseverance to land a rover on Mars, it takes perseverance to face the challenges and disruption to our lives from Covid-19, climate disasters, political instability and conflict," said Nichols.

"We appreciated that connection, and we think Cambridge Dictionary users do, too."

Other words that can be used as synonyms for “perseverance” include “determination”, “persistence”, “doggedness”, “tenacity”, “resolve”, and “will”.

Nasa’s Perseverance Rover is on a mission as part of the Mars Exploration Programme, a long-term robotic exploration of the Red Planet. Its goal is to search for signs of habitable conditions on Mars but also for signs of life.

Last year, Cambridge Dictionary named “quarantine” as word of the year, after it became one of the most highly searched for words online.

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