Face with Tears of Joy.

Robin HamiltonCreative Director

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a word or expression chosen to reflect the passing year in language. The team shortlist and then select a word that captures the ethos, mood or preoccupations of that particular year.

As a designer my process often combines words and pictures to portray a subject matter, so it’s interesting that this year the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is the emoji commonly known as ‘Face with Tears of Joy’. Emoji have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate. 2015 is the first year ever that a pictograph has been selected as the ‘Word of the Year’.

This year Oxford University Press partnered with leading mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world. ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ came out a clear winner. According to SwiftKey’s research, ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ was the most heavily used emoji globally in 2015.

Emoji is a loanword from Japanese defined as ‘a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication’.

The similarity of the Japanese word emoji to the English word emoticon makes it easy for English speakers to remember, but the resemblance is entirely coincidental. Emoji is derived ultimately from the Japanese words e (picture) and moji (letter, character), whereas emoticon is from the English words emotion and icon.

The Word of the Year 2015 shortlist

In addition to the Word of the Year itself, Oxford Dictionaries have put together a shortlist of notable words that have gained linguistic currency during 2015. These range across a variety of subjects, from global politics and current affairs, to technology and popular culture.

Oxford’s lexicographic expertise and experience puts them in a unique position to understand and track how people express themselves through the use of the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus.

Collecting around 150 million words of current English in use each month using automated search criteria to scan new web content, Oxford Dictionaries are able to analyse a corpus comprising over 7 billion words.

In alphabetical order, the shortlisted words for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 are:

ad blocker, noun:

A piece of software designed to prevent advertisements from appearing on a web page.

Recent studies have shown increasing use of ad blockers by Internet users, prompting a flood of concern in the media about the viability of free digital content funded by advertising.

Brexit, noun:

A term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

In the early part of 2015, the European portmanteau on everyone’s lips was Grexit (a blend of Greek and exit), referring to the potential withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone.

Dark Web, noun:

The part of the World Wide Web that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable

Whereas the term Deep Web refers to the parts of the Internet that cannot be found using search engines, Dark Web refers specifically to websites which use encryption tools to hide the identities of hosts and users of a site, often in order to facilitate illegal activities.

Lumbersexual, noun:

A young urban man who cultivates an appearance and style of dress (typified by a beard and checked shirt) suggestive of a rugged outdoor lifestyle

On fleek, adjectival phrase:

Extremely good, attractive, or stylish

On June 21, 2014, a Vine user called “Peaches Monroee”— in offline life a young woman named Kayla Newman from the Chicago, USA area—uploaded a video in which she approvingly described her eyebrows as “on fleek”. Her video went viral, and so did the phrase, surging on social media and making its way into the lyrics of songs by the likes of Nicki Minaj, among others.

Refugee, noun:

A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Sharing economy, noun:

An economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either for free or for a fee, typically by means of the Internet.

The Internet has facilitated a number of services which are collectively known as the “sharing economy”, whereby assets or services are shared between private individuals, either for free or for a fee.

They (singular), pronoun:

Used to refer to a person of unspecified sex.

The pronoun they is one of the most common words in English, but it has been thrust into the spotlight recently with reference to people with non-binary gender identities (that is, people who identify as neither male nor female).


Related Insights