best words 2010
There's an app for that.

In a country that loves spectacular awards ceremonies for celebrities (like the Grammys, the Oscars, the Emmys, and earlier this week, the Golden Globes), would you believe that we also have annual award for new words?

It’s a little less spectacular than the Golden Globes – there is no red carpet, and the words don’t wear designer dresses. However, since 1990, the American Dialect Society has annually recognized a word or phrase that was invented or reached popularity that year. The yearly vote highlights the fact that English, like any language, is always evolving.

The Word of the Year for 2010 is app – the shortened form of “application” that we use for programs on iPhones and other smartphones.  Some of the other words honored this year are nom (a slang interjection or noun describing delicious food), which was named Most Useful Word, and trend (to exhibit a burst of online buzz), named Most Likely to Succeed.

Here are the Words of the Year for the last two decades:

2009 tweet 1999 Y2K
2008 bailout 1998 e- (as in e-mail, e-commerce, etc.)
2007 subprime 1997 millennium bug/Y2K bug
2006 to pluto/to be plutoed 1996 soccer mom
2005 truthiness 1995 (tie) World Wide Web/newt
2004 red/blue/purple states 1994 (tie) cyber/morph
2003 metrosexual 1993 information superhighway
2002 weapons of mass destruction/WMD 1992 not! (interjection)
2001 9-11/September 11 1991 mother of all —-
2000 chad 1990 bushlips


In 2000, the society also named a Word of the Decade (web), Word of the Century (jazz), and Word of the Millennium (she). The Word of the Decade for 2000-2009 was google as a verb.

As you can see, a lot of language change is related to technology. Many other new terms and phrases are related to politics and current events. Some of these words are a regular part of our vocabulary today, while others have faded away.

You can see all of the award-winning words for each year (and their definitions) in the American Dialect Society’s press release announcing this year’s nominees and winners.

[photo credit: Florin Hatmanu]