Irrational fear has become the theme for 2016.
Dictionary.com has summarized the current state of American politics with its 2016 Word of the Year: “Xenophobe.” The definition: “Fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.”
“This particular year saw fear rise to the surface of cultural discourse,” the leading online dictionary said in a statement. “This year, some of the most prominent news stories have centered around fear of the ‘other.’ Fear … often influences behaviors and perceptions on a subconscious level.”
Fittingly, searches for “xenophobia” spiked several times during 2016. The first was June 24, when searches surged 938 percent the day after the UK voted to leave the European Union, while the next came recently when President Barack Obama mentioned the word when commenting on President-elect’s Donald Trump “populist” rhetoric.
“That’s not the measure of populism,” said Obama after Trump called for banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and constructing a border wall with Mexico. “That’s nativism or xenophobia or worse. Or it’s just cynicism.”
Dictionary.com’s decision to select “xenophobe” follows in line with the words of the year recently selected by other dictionaries.
Oxford Dictionaries, for example, picked post-truth as its word. The relatively new addition to the English language is an adjective that means “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In specific, it is used in the phrase “post-truth politics.”
For comparison, Dictionary.com made “identity” its 2015 Word of the Year, due to the increased focus on racial and gender identities as well as sexual orientation.
Next, see how search traffic for words like “misogyny,” “facism,” and “xenophobe” spiked during election week, before reading up on how Donald Trump’s misconduct toward women went well beyond “locker room talk.”