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01 December 2016

‘Paranoid’ announced as Word of the Year

The Cambridge Dictionary team have chosen paranoid as their Word of the Year for 2016. Researchers examined the data from the hundreds of millions of searches on to see which words sparked the most interest in 2016, and found that paranoid stood out as the clear frontrunner. 

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Cambridge Dictionary team saw such a large spike in searches for paranoid after what has been a truly eventful, and indeed worrying, year. In June, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, causing great uncertainty in the UK and across Europe (even now, the only certainty we have is that Brexit means Brexit); then, in November, after a brutal and divisive campaign, the people of the United States elected businessman Donald Trump as president ahead of politician Hillary Clinton, in one of the most extraordinary political stories of modern times. Add to this the ongoing backdrop of a bloody civil war in Syria, several terrorist attacks around the world and a number of shock celebrity deaths.

Wendalyn Nichols, Publishing Manager for Dictionaries at Cambridge University Press, said: ‘As ever, global events are reflected in the words that are looked up on the Cambridge Dictionary site. We found a fourfold increase in searches for the word paranoid from all over the world, suggesting that people may be less trusting than they used to be and that the world as a whole feels a lot more uncertain than it did compared with even a year ago.’

Paranoid wasn’t the only instance where world events have influenced search spikes, with the data highlighting large increases in words along a similar theme: anxiety and chaos; increases in prejudice, bigotry and bullying; and people feeling nostalgic for what are perceived as simpler, more settled and happier times.

But it’s not all doom and gloom: another word that has seen a big increase in searches is adorable – perhaps Cambridge Dictionary users are comforting themselves with online videos of cute animals and trying to think happier thoughts?

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