‘Existential’ Is Dictionary.com’s Phrase of the 12 months. Right here’s Why


(NEW YORK) — Local weather change, gun violence, the very nature of democracy and an angsty little film star referred to as Forky helped propel “existential” to Dictionary.com’s phrase of the yr.

The selection displays months of high-stakes threats and crises, actual and contemplated, throughout the information, the world and all through 2019.

“In our data, it speaks to this sense of grappling with our survival, both literally and figuratively, that defined so much of the discourse,” stated John Kelly, senior analysis editor for the location, forward of Monday’s announcement.

The phrase earned prime of thoughts consciousness in sustained searches at Dictionary.com within the aftermath of wildfires and Hurricane Dorian, and mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. It additionally reared itself in presidential politics and popular culture, together with Forky the white plastic spork who was the breakout star of “Toy Story 4.”

The dirty utensil is satisfied his future is within the trash, till he embraces his objective as a treasured toy of kindergartener Bonnie.

“Forky underscores how this sense of grappling can also inspire us to ask big questions about who we are, about our purpose,” Kelly instructed The Related Press.

Oxford Dictionaries picked “climate emergency” as its phrase of the yr, noting utilization proof that displays the “ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year,” the corporate stated in an announcement.

Dictionary.com crunches lookup and different knowledge to resolve which phrase to anoint every year. The location has been selecting a phrase of the yr since 2010.

Amongst search spikes for “existential” have been those who occurred after each Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and 16-year-old local weather activist Greta Thunberg characterised local weather change as an “existential” disaster, Kelly stated.

One other spike occurred when former Vice President Joe Biden, additionally vying for the Democratic presidential nod, painted President Donald Trump as an “existential threat” to decency.

The phrase dates to 1685, deriving from Late Latin’s “existentialis.” Dictionary.com defines existential as “of or relating to existence” and “of, relating to, or characteristic of philosophical existentialism; concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual’s freely made choices.”

Enter Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel and Jean-Paul Sartre, thinkers who molded and embraced existentialism, amongst different actions.

Local weather, weapons and the impeachment disaster for Donald Trump have been just some areas that appeared to border debate in existential phrases. So did the Hong Kong protests, the Notre Dame fireplace, tensions between the US and China, and Massive Tech’s privateness and faux information issues.

“We started to see existential in the dialogue beginning in January and all the way through the year,” stated Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, Dictionary.com’s chief govt officer. “This is a consistent theme that we saw in our data, but it also was leveraged across many different important questions of our time.”

As for Forky, his journey from disposable utensil to handmade toy factors to the idea of “agency,” Kelly stated, referring to the ability to direct our personal existences. That, he stated, affords us the “opportunity to turn existential threats into existential choices.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.


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