Dictionary.com’s word of the year is ‘woman’
“Woman” is Dictionary.com’s word of the year – a word so simple and so common but nonetheless, according to the site, “inseparable from the story of 2022.”
This year’s pick is a reflection of the ongoing cultural conversations around gender, identity and language and how people turn to the dictionary to make sense of these complex issues, the online reference site said in Tuesday’s announcement.
“This year, the very matter of the definition of the word ‘woman’ was at the center of so many consequential moments, discussions, and decisions in our society,” John Kelly, Dictionary.com’s senior director of editorial, said in a news release. “Our selection of ‘woman’ as the Word of the Year for 2022 – and how the word is defined, who is included in that definition, who the word applies and belongs to – highlights how important the work of a dictionary is, and how dictionaries can impact people’s lives.”
Despite the word’s ubiquity, Dictionary.com saw double the usual search volume this year for “woman,” which the site defines as “an adult female person.” The biggest spike happened in late March during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the online reference said.
At the hearing, Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn notably asked then-Judge Jackson to define the word “woman” as part of a line of questioning that attacked transgender student athletes. Throughout the year, other Republicans politicians also evoked the question of what makes a woman a woman in culture war battles over transgender rights – GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde asked a similar question of a witness during a House committee hearing in July on abortion access.
Other major news events also played a part in why Dictionary.com chose “woman” as its word of the year, including the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the US women’s soccer team securing an equal pay deal, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Serena Williams’ announcement that she was “evolving away” from tennis, and the Iran protests.
“The utter variety of all these events is a reminder that one word can never sufficiently summarize or encapsulate an entire year, especially a year as relentlessly eventful, inflammatory, and inflationary as 2022,” the site said in a post about this year’s selection. “Nevertheless, 2022 will be remembered in part for its impact on women, and for women’s impact on a changing world.”
Given the discourse around the word “woman” this year, Dictionary.com was careful to point out that it wasn’t the final authority on the term, adding that “the word belongs to each and every woman – however they define themselves.”