In a year where global protests against the climate crisis were staged from Afghanistan to Vietnam, Extinction Rebellion protests halted traffic in major cities and Greta Thunberg called on young people to skip school to combat political inaction, the “climate strike” was named Collins Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year.
Each year, the dictionary lexicographers monitor a corpus of 9.5 billion words and compile a list of 10 new and notable terms. One of them is crowned the word of the year. The definition of a climate strike is “a form of protest in which people take time away from education or work in order to join protests demanding action to combat climate change.”
The first use of the phrase was recorded in 2015, when a mass protest took place at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris. However, the expression only took off at the end of 2018, when young Swedish activist Thunberg’s decision to skip school on Fridays to protest in front of the national parliament made headlines around the world. In September 2019, around six million people joined the global climate strike, also known as Global Week for the Future.
Collins’ lexicographers noticed a 100-fold increase in climate strike use in 2019, the biggest of any word on their list.
Helen Newstead, language content consultant at Collins, said: ‘Climate strikes can often divide opinion, but they were inevitable last year and even got an old word of the year – Brexit – in mind. off the news agenda, if only for a short time. “
The choice shows a trend of new terms related to the environment, after the word of the year 2018, “single use”, which refers to plastic products designed to be used only once.
There were other climate-related candidates this year, including “rewilding,” which means “the practice of returning areas of land to the wild,” and “hopepunk,” a name that has been used to describe âa literary and artistic movement that celebrates the pursuit of positive goals in the face of adversityâ.
The words chosen over the past six years have become increasingly political. Where words like “geek”, “photobomb” and “binge-watching” once defined a new vocabulary, more recent selections include “Brexit” and “fake news”. This year, Collins launched a ‘Brexicon’: defining words relating to the Brexit process, including ‘Brexiter’, ‘cakeism’, ‘flextension’ and ‘prorogue’.
“The dictionary has no opinion on Brexit other than saying it has been generous enough in its gifts to the English language, while inspiring the use of many old-fashioned swear words,” Newstead said .
âIt seems an age since we had lighter words of the yearâ¦