THEY DID IT

The American Dialect Society has spoken: These are the words that defined 2015

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The 127-year-old American Dialect Society (ADS) was, as far as we know, the first organization to declare a word of the year. A host of dictionaries, media outlets, and others now offer their own choices for word of the year, but the ADS—made up of linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, and other researchers—still gives the most authoritative account of big linguistic movements over 12 months of American English.

Each January, ADS members nominate and vote on words in various categories; think of it as the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards of linguistics. There is a category for word of the year, of course, but also most creative word, most outrageous, least likely to succeed, and more. New categories this year are most notable emoji and most notable hashtag.

And the awards for 2015 are in.

The word of the year? Singular “they,” used to refer to a person of any gender, as in the sentence, “If somebody decides to take on this challenge, I sure hope they know what they’re getting in to.” This usage replaces what we’ve long been told should be “he or she,” only it is shorter, already widely used in conversation, and does not imply the old man/woman gender binary. (Quartz independently chose “they” this year as well.)

“While editors have increasingly moved to accepting singular they when used in a generic fashion, voters in the Word of the Year proceedings singled out its newer usage as an identifier for someone who may identify as ‘non-binary’ in gender terms,” the ADS noted in its official statement.

Here are the full results for all categories, including the total number of votes, and definitions provided by ADS.

Word of the Year

Nominee Meaning
ammosexual someone who loves firearms in a fetishistic manner
ghost (verb) abruptly end a relationship by cutting off communication, especially online
on fleek put together, impeccable, well-arrayed
thanks, Obama sarcastic expression in which a person pretends to blame Obama for a problem
they gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, particularly as a nonbinary identifier

Most Useful

Nominee Meaning
mic drop definitive end to a discussion after making an impressive point
microaggression subtle form of racism or bias
shade insult, criticism or disrespect, shown in a subtle or clever manner
they gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, particularly as a nonbinary identifier
zero fucks given, ZFG indication of supreme indifference

Most Creative

Nominee Meaning
adult (verb) behave like a grownup
ammosexual someone who loves firearms in a fetishistic manner
lowkey (adverb) to a small extent, in a subtle manner; opposite of highkey
squad one’s posse or close circle of friends
yass, yaass, yaaass, etc. expression of excitement, approval or strong agreement

Most Unnecessary

Nominee Meaning
dadbod the flabby physique of a typical dad
manbun man’s hairstyle pulled up in a bun
or nah question tag expressing that something may not occur
trigger warning alert for potentially distressing material
thanks, Obama sarcastic expression in which a person pretends to blame Obama for a problem

Most Outrageous

Nominee Meaning
fish gape posed expression with cheeks sucked in and lips slightly apart
fuckboy, fuckboi derogatory term for a man who behaves objectionably or promiscuously
schlong (verb) defeat soundly
sharewashing deceptive marketing by companies treating services as “sharing
white student union campus organization organized in response to a black student union

Most Euphemistic

Nominee Meaning
af, asf intensifier after an adjective (abbreviation for “as fuck”)
lit amazing, exciting or fun
Netflix and chill sexual come-on masked as a suggestion to watch Netflix and relax
swipe right/left accept or reject (based on gestures used on Tinder dating app)

Most Likely to Succeed

Nominee Meaning
CRISPR gene-editing technology allowing biologists to alter and control DNA sequences
ghost (verb) abruptly end a relationship by cutting off communication, especially online
mom admiring term of address for a woman seen as a mother figure
on fleek put together, impeccable, well-arrayed

Least Likely to Succeed

Nominee Meaning
Berniementum momentum behind the candidacy of Bernie Sanders
hoverboard self-balancing motorized skateboard
sitbit device that rewards sedentary lifestyle (play on Fitbit fitness tracker)
Uber for X pitch used by startups seeking to emulate Uber in different tech sectors

Most Notable Hashtag

Nominee Meaning
#JeSuisParis expression of solidarity after the Paris terror attacks
#LoveWins celebration of Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage
#SayHerName call to bring attention to violence against women of color
#StayMadAbby ridiculing plaintiff in Univ of Texas affirmative action case.
#StayWoke exhortation to remain vigilant and informed (used by #BlackLivesMatter movement)

Most Notable Emoji

Nominee Meaning
😍 heart eyes (romantic, passionate)
😉 winking face (humorous, flirtatious)
💁 information desk person (sassy, sarcastic)
🍆 eggplant (sexual innuendo)
💯 100 (“keep it 100,” “keep it real”)
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