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After Brexit and the US election, Oxford Dictionaries declares “post-truth” word of the year

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Who needs facts?
By Selina Cheng
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.


Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” its word of the year, citing a 2,000% increase in usage in 2016 following Brexit and the US presidential election.

“Post-truth” is commonly used by media and political pundits when describing ”post-truth politics,” or political campaigns that appeal to voters’ emotions and are often disconnected from facts. The term appeared in the title of a number of op-eds this year, including the New York Times’ ”The age of post-truth politics,” the Washington Post’s ”Why the post-truth political era might be around for a while,” and The Guardian’s “Post-truth politicians such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are no joke.

“It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly charged political and social discourse,” says Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl. “Fueled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.”

Post-truth politics” has had its own Wikipedia page since July, but “post-truth” dates back even further: The term was coined by a playwright in 1992. It was added to this month.

“Post-truth” beat out word of the year contenders that included “alt-right,” referring to extreme conservative views held by white nationalists; “Brexiteer,” a Brexit proponent; and “adulting,” or “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.”

The choice of “post-truth” over “adulting” is telling.

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