Global Language Monitor: Top Global English Word of 2016 is a Meme

Top Global English Word of 2016 is a Meme

May 1, 2017, Austin, TEXAS and NEW YORK — The Global Language Monitor (GLM) today announced that the Global English Word of the Year for 2016 is not a word but a meme: the blood-soaked image of Omran Daqneesh, five years old, sitting in an ambulance while awaiting treatment in Allepo, Syria.

The Global Language Monitor (GLM) also announced that Truth is the Word of the Year for 2017. 


 2016 Words of the Year




Top Word of 2016 is a meme:  Omran Daqneesh, Five years old, Allepo, Syria

2 Refugee A term used to describe migrants that were forced from their homeland by war or civil unrest.
3 Bigly Of considerable size, number, quantity, extent, or magnitude; large.
4 Brexit British Exit from the European Union
5 Zika Virus transmitted by mosquitoes associated with increased incidence of microcephaly in babies born to mothers infected during pregnancy. Impacted attendance at the Rio Games
6 Opioids More deaths than gun violence and automobiles combined
7 Microaggression The brief, everyday exchanges that send mostly unintended derogatory messages to members of various minority groups. Related to the following terms:
8 Climate Changing  GLM will now use the gerund form of the verb ‘change’  to recognize the fact of on-going, continuous condition.
9 Post-truth Oxford: objective facts are less influential  than appeals to emotion or the narrative
10 Anthropocene The current geological age, viewed as the period during in which human activity has been a significant influence on climate and the environment;
11 White Privilege Societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic conditions.
12 Rio Olympics The 2016 Summer Olympics, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad and commonly known as Rio 2016,
13 Alt-Right Oxford: objective facts are less influential  than appeals to emotion or the narrative
14 Wikileaks Publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources.
15 Trans Abbreviation for transgender, people who identify with the opposite of their physical characteristics.
16 Snowflake What unconcerned students call those with the need for safe spaces and warnings about possible trigger events
17 Populism Political movement claiming  to represent the interests of ordinary people against the elite and privileged
18 Migrant  A term that includes refugees from economic, climatalogical changes, and others issues not directly related to war.
19 Evolve The evolution of the word ‘flip-flop’ in political jargon.  More like ‘survival of the fittest,’ it only occurs until the voters first shift their views on a particular subject.
20 Thug Brought to renewed attention by President Obama; from the Hindi (and Sanskrit) words describing Aryan assassins.
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During the last 18 months, the world of language in the Industrialized West reflected the turmoil undergoing much of the political systems throughout the Year 2016 and continuing into early 2017, said Paul JJ Payack, presdent and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor.

However, it would be a mistake to characterize this time with the World, as a whole, in turmoil. After all, having one nation exiting the EU block of some twenty-eight counties along with the the election of what by European Standards is a Center-Right government in the United States does not equate to 1914, 1939, 1968, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the on-going Middle East conflagration, and/or the emergence of China onto the world economic stage earlier this century, or even the Global Economic Restructuring of 2008 and what continues in its wake.

If you kept abreast of the daily press reports, you would think an outbreak of mass hysteria or at least amnesia had swept over the nations of the West. The world’s leading print and electronic media acted as if the concept of truth had been circumvented, or even, contravened, and sounded alarm after alarm that what we all knew as facts were no longer discernible. The source of this disruption in the news cycle, of course, was what came to be known as fake news and post-truth.

As the various organizations that announced their particular choices for their Words of the Year (WOTY), 2016 had the dubious distinction of being labeled a ‘dumpster-fire’ by the American Dialect Society thereby furthering the concept of fake news. How else could a phrase that was scarcely uttered anywhere in the world in 2016 be chosen for this ‘honor’?

For historical comparisons of a number of the terms used in this analysis, GLM used the Google Ngram Viewer.   You can use the Ngram Viewer to chart frequencies of comma-delimited search strings.  The Google Ngram Viewer uses yearly counts from sources printed between 1500 and 2008, though in some cases later dates of publications are included.

Figure 1. Relative Frequency of citations among words used to describe the Top Words of the Year for 2016

Figure 2. Close-up on Relative Frequency Among Some Top Words of the Year for 2016

Figure 3.  Comparisons for the Words Truth Vs. Lie Since 1740

This is why early in the century, the Global Language Monitor put into place a methodology that clearly states that each considered word or phrase must adhere to the published criteria (see below). The methodology calls for words and phrases from the entire global English linguasphere to be considered, as well as each fulfilling geographic and demographic requirements. This automatically excludes the lists created by those organizations that rely on polls and other such non-scientific tools

A Methodology Optimized for the Wired World -- GLM’s Word of the Year rankings are based upon actual word usage throughout the English-speaking world, which now approaches some 2.38 billion people, who use the language as a first, second, business language. To qualify for these lists, the words, names, and phrases must meet three criteria: 1) found globally, 2) have a minimum of 25,000 citations, and 3) have the requisite ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’ of usage. Depth is here defined as appearing in various forms of media; breadth that they must appear world-over, not limited to a particular profession or social group or geography. The goal is to find the word usage that will endure the test of time.

Global Language Monitor began to use newly available technologies to document the Words of the Year for Global English at the turn of the 21st century, with the idea to encapsulate and capture the essence of the preceding twelve months in a sort of linguistic amber.

About the Global Language Monitor

In 2003, The Global Language Monitor (GLM) was founded in Silicon Valley by Paul J.J. Payack on the understanding that new technologies and techniques were necessary for truly understanding the world of Big Data, as it is now known.

Today, from its home in Austin, Texas GLM provides a number of innovative products and services that utilize its ‘algorithmic services’ to help worldwide customers protect, defend and nurture their branded products and entities. Products include ‘brand audits’ to assess the current status, establish baselines, and competitive benchmarks for current intellectual assets and brands, and to defend products against ambush marketing.

These services are currently provided to the Fortune 500, the Higher Education market, high technology firms, the worldwide print, and electronic media, as well as the global fashion industry, among others.

For more information, call 1.512.801-6823, email, or visit

Apocalyptic language has been widely cited as word of the year worthy for the last several years — and rightly so. In fact, Apocalypse and Armageddon took Global Language Monitors’ honors as Top Global English Words of 2012. And though GLM’s proprietary algorithms have displayed a predictive element, it’s entirely possible that Apocalyptic language did indeed peak some three years too soon.

The Top Words, Phrases, and Names since the Turn of the Century

Top Words:  No. 1  Truth, No. 2  Narrative, No. 3, #Resist
Top Phrases:   No. 1  Make America Great Again No. 2 When they go low, we go high No. 3 The Electoral College
Top Names:   No. 1 Donald Trump, No. 2 Vladimir Putin, No. 3 Neil Gorsuch
Top Words:  No. 1  Microaggression
Top Phrases:   No. 1 Migrant Crisis
Top Names:   No. 1 Donald J. Trump
Top Words:  No. 1 The Heart ♥ Emoji (for love) , No. 2 Hashtag , No. 3 Vape
Top Phrases:   No. 1 Hands Up, Don’t Shoot;  No. 2 Cosmic Inflation, No. 3 Global Warming
Top Names:   No. 1 Ebola, No. 2 Pope Francis, No. 3 World War I
Top Words: No. 1  ‘404’, No.2 Fail, No.3 Hashtag
Top Phrases: No. 1 Toxic Politics, No. 2 Federal Shutdown, No.3 Global Warming/Climate Change
Top Names: No. 1. Pope Francis, No. 2 ObamaCare, No.3 NSA
Top Words: No. 1 ApocalypseArmageddon, No.2 Deficit, No. 3 Olympiad
Top Phrases: No. 1 Gangnam Style, No. 2 Climate Change/Global Warming, No. 3 Fiscal Cliff
Top Names: No. 1 Newtown and Malala Yousafzai, No. 3 Xi Jinping
Top Words: No. 1 Occupy, No.2 Fracking, No.3 Drone
Top Phrases: No. 1 Arab Spring, No. 2 Royal Wedding, No.3 Anger and Rage
Top Names: No. 1 Steve Jobs, No. 2 Osama bin-laden and Seal Team Six, No.3 Fukushima
Top Words: No. 1 Occupy, No.2 Fracking, No.3 Drone
Top Phrases: No. 1 Anger and Rage, No. 2 Climate Change, No. 3 The Great Recession
Top Names: No. 1 Hu Jintao, paramount leader of China, No. 2 iPad, No. 3 Barack Obama
Top Words: No. 1 Twitter, No. 2 Obama-, No. 3 H1N1
Top Phrases: No. 1 King of Pop, No. 2 Obama-mania, No. 3 Climate Change
Top Names: No. 1 Obama, No. 2 Michael Jackson, No. 3 Mobama
Top Words: No. 1 Change, No. 2 Bailout, No. 3 Obama-mania
Top Phrases: No. 1 Financial Tsunami, No. 2 Global Warming, No. 3 “Yes, We Can!”
Top Names: No. 1 Barack Obama, No. 2 George W. Bush, No.3 Michael Phelps
Top Words: No. 1 Hybrid (representing all things green), No. 2: Surge
Top Phrase: Climate Change
Top Name: Al Gore
Top Word: Sustainable
Top Phrase: Stay the Course
Top Name: Dafur
Top Words: No. 1, Refugee No. 2: Tsunami No. 3: Katrina
Top Phrase: Outside the Mainstream
Top Name: (acts of ) God
Top Word: Incivility (for inCivil War)
Top Phrase: Red States/Blue States No. 2: Rush to War
Top Name: Dubya/Rove
Top Word: Embedded
Top Phrase: Shock and Awe, No. 2: Rush to War
Top Name: Saddam Hussein, No. 2 Dubya
Top Word: Misunderestimate
 Top Phrase: Threat Fatigue
Top Name: W (Dubya)
Top Word: Ground Zero
Top Phrase: ‘Lets Roll’
Top Name: The Heros
Top Word: Chad
Top Phrase:
Top Name: W (Dubya)


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