With roots in Greek words “xénos” (stranger, guest) and “phóbos” (fear, panic), “xenophobia” became a popular search term in June following Brexit, ushering in a 938 percent increase in lookups on the website.
The term surged less than a week later when President Barack Obama used the word in a speech delivered on Jun. 29 to describe Donald Trump’s political rhetoric during his campaign and spiked yet again on Nov. 9 after the Republican was named the President-elect of the United States.
“Xenophobia and other words tied to global news and political rhetoric reflected the worldwide interest in the unfortunate rise of fear of otherness in 2016, making it the clear choice for Word of the Year,” said Liz McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com.
While the website breaks down the term’s buzz, the team behind the Word of the Year honor cautions that it is far from anything to cheer about. “Despite being chosen as the 2016 Word of the Year, xenophobia is not to be celebrated,” a statement reads. “Rather it’s a word to reflect upon deeply in light of the events of the recent past.”