The Committee's Choice & People's Choice Word of the Year 2019

Posted on 9 December 2019


What is the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year

Once a year, at Macquarie Dictionary HQ, we get together with a select group of people with a mind to decide on a single Word of the Year for the year that has passed. We look at all the new words and new definitions that have entered the Macquarie Dictionary in the past year.

Our editors create a longlist of 75 words (you can check them out here) split into different categories (some of which we have discussed in our blogs here). In 2018, the Word of the Year was Me Too. And in 2017, the word was milkshake duck.

People's Choice Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year 2019: robodebt

The word that took out the People's Choice, as voted on by the Australian public in an opinion poll, is robodebt.

This year there was a record number of votes cast for the People's Choice, with robodebt winning by only a handful of votes ahead of eco-anxiety, anecdataand whataboutismAll of these words have been a significant part of our discourse over the past year, which has been reflected in this incredibly close race to be awarded the 2019 People's Choice Word of the Year.

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year robodebt a debt owed to the government by a welfare recipient, arising from an overpayment of benefits calculated by an automated process which compares the recipient's income as stated by them to the government with their income as recorded by the Australian Taxation Office, a debt recovery notice being automatically generated and sent to the welfare recipient.

Committee's Choice Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year 2019: cancel culture

The chosen word for 2019 was a tight finish, but went to cancel culture.

A term that captures an important aspect of the past year's Zeitgeist...an attitude which is so pervasive that it now has a name, society’s cancel culture has become, for better or worse, a powerful force. – THE COMMITTEE

Image of Word of the Year - Macquarie Dictionary - cancel culture - the attitudes within a community which call for or bring about the withdrawal of support from a public figure

Committee's Choice Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year Honorable Mentions

There were three honorable mentions for 2019. In line with the environmental choices of Word of the Year from other dictionaries around the world, the first mention goes to eco-anxiety. Following this is ngangkari, a word from the Pitjantjatjara language meaning 'traditional healer' and the colloquialism thicc, which comes originally from Black English in the early 2000s and is a respelling of thick.

Honourable Mention: eco-anxiety

This just edged out flight shaming for an honourable mention. Both terms reflect a strongly emotional aspect to attitudes to climate change, which is clearly something which has been of great concern in 2019.  – THE COMMITTEE

Image of Word of the Year Macquarie Dictionary eco-anxiety feelings of distress and fear brought on by the effects of climate change.

Honourable Mention: ngangkari

While ngangkari have been healers for thousands of years, this word has only recently entered Australian English. It's lexically notable and refreshing because, unlike many borrowings from Indigenous languages, it is straight from Pitjantjatjara – it hasn't been translated, Anglicised, or otherwise changed. – THE COMMITTEE

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year ngangkari an Indigenous practitioner of bush medicine; healer.

Honourable Mention: thicc

Originating in African American English, thicc is a celebration of body positivity that does not conform to conventional white standards of beauty. Its spelling is a linguistic thumbing of the nose, too.  – THE COMMITTEE

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year thicc curvaceous; voluptuous.

Word of the Year Shortlist 2019

Check out our shortlist below for every definition of the remaining twelve words or get the pdf here.

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year - anecdata - information which is presented as if it were based on systematic research, but is actually based on personal observation or experience. Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year - big minutes - a period of time spent by a player on the field, court, etc., during which they maximise their impact, having a substantial effect on the game

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year cheese slaw Broken Hill a salad of grated carrot, grated cheese, and mayonnaise. Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year cleanskin someone without any tattoos.

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year drought lot a type of sacrifice paddock in which livestock are kept with provisions of water and feed, the confinement allowing the stock to maintain their condition while pasture paddocks can recover more quickly, and erosion damage can be minimised in periods of drought. Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year flight shaming criticism or ridicule directed at someone travelling by air because of the carbon emissions and consequent environmental damage produced by such travel.

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year healthwashing the marketing practice of presenting a food brand or product as being more nutritious or wholesome than it actually is, usually by ignoring or understating the less healthy aspects of the product. Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year for hedonometer an algorithm using language data to analyse levels of happiness, especially data from the social media platform Twitter.

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year mukbang a broadcast streamed online in which someone films themselves eating, often a large amount, and speaking to their audience. Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year robodebt a debt owed to the government by a welfare recipient, arising from an overpayment of benefits calculated by an automated process which compares the recipient's income as stated by them to the government with their income as recorded by the Australian Taxation Office, a debt recovery notice being automatically generated and sent to the welfare recipient.

Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year silkpunk a subgenre of science fiction which draws on Asian history and culture for setting and aesthetic.  Image of Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year whataboutism a technique used in responding to an accusation, criticism or difficult question, in which an opposing accusation or criticism raised.