What do the words “permacrisis,” “gaslighting,” and “goblin mode” all have in common?

As 2022 comes to a close, English-language dictionary publishers are selecting the words that best encapsulate the character and ambiance of the last 365 days.

At the beginning of November, the publishers of the Collins Dictionary opted for “permacrisis,” a fitting portmanteau of “permanent” and “crisis” that many have used to refer to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A few weeks later, on Nov. 28, Merriam-Webster selected “gaslighting,” citing it as a fitting word to describe “this age of misinformation” and noting that the term saw a 1,740% increase in searches during the year.

And now, the folks at Oxford University Press (OUP) — the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary — are throwing their hat into the ring. While publishers typically make these decisions internally, OUP took a different approach, allowing the public to vote for 2022’s word of the year for the first time in the organization’s history. And the people’s choice?

“Goblin mode.”

If you’re not sure what this (compound) word of the year means, you’re not alone — it’s a fairly niche slang phrase that skyrocketed in use this year after a tweet featuring it went viral in February. As OUP defines it, the word “goblin mode” refers to “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

“The strength of the response highlights how important our vocabulary is to understanding who we are and processing what’s happening to the world around us,” said Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages. Given the year we’ve just experienced, ‘Goblin mode’ resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point.”

OUP also identified “metaverse” and the hashtag “#IStandWith” as other words that gave “goblin mode” a run for its money. Interestingly, all of the words in question are often associated with social media, rather than day-to-day conversation or literary usage. The rising use of the term “gaslighting,” for example, has often been linked to social media networks like Tumblr and Twitter, while “#IStandWith,” is innately centered on social media interactions by the very nature of its status as a hashtag — only time will tell whether these words will catch on and stick in spoken language as well.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.


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