Once again, it’s the time of year when the Cambridge Dictionary team looks back over the past twelve months to choose a word that represents what the dictionary, and what the English language, means to its users. This year’s word might surprise you, so read on to find out why the Word of the Year 2022 is… homer!
When we looked at our data to see which words had been searched for the most in 2022, homer immediately stood out. It was looked up more than 79,000 times this year, and an amazing 65,401 of those views happened on May 5. But why were so many of our users interested in this word, and what does it mean?
The spike in searches for homer was caused by players of Wordle, a popular online word game in which users have six chances to guess a five-letter English word. When homer was the answer for May 5, speakers of American English immediately recognized it as an informal word for a home run in baseball. However, many players outside the US had not heard this word before. Huge numbers of players expressed their frustration and annoyance on social media, but many also turned to the Cambridge Dictionary to find out more.
Throughout 2022, our team saw bursts of searches for many five-letter words that were also Wordle answers. This “Wordle effect” attracted users not only to common words like humor (the American English spelling of humour) but also to less familiar ones like caulk, tacit, and bayou. People across the world enjoy the shared experience of playing the game, and learning about unusual or unfamiliar words (or complaining about them) seems to be part of the fun. The dictionary team felt that choosing homer as the Word of the Year 2022 represented not only the enjoyment that so many of our users have found in being playful with language, but also the challenges of learning English in an increasingly connected world. Playing an online game such as Wordle can bring us together with people from all across the globe, but the differences between varieties of English can cause confusion in these international conversations – until we learn more about them!
The Cambridge Dictionary is a great tool for finding out more about words like homer that are used in one variety of English but not another. It covers both British and American English (including the pronunciation of both), and uses labels to show you which words are used only in British English or only in American English. You can even change which variety of English is used in the definitions and example sentences in the “Choose your language” menu; just click the globe icon at the top right of the page.
We have a lot more information for you about our Word of the Year 2022, including analysis from Cambridge Dictionary lexicographers and a video from English language expert Professor Lynne Murphy, the author of Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English.
Click here to find out more about our Word of the Year, or read about previous Words of the Year.
And, if you’re a Wordle player, try our new Cambridge Dictionary +Plus word list of Top five-letter words.
Do you enjoy word games? Do you prefer to use British or American English (or something else)? Had you ever heard our Word of the Year winner, homer, before? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!
6 thoughts on “Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2022”
Love-hate would be a characterisation of my reaction and response to word games.
I prefer all the Englishes. Indian English and South African English and Singlish have added a lot. When it comes to it – when I was a younger person I liked American English [and indeed all the regional flavours like Texan English and New England English] and as I became older and more experienced in English I found British English more accessible.
Australian English and New Zealand English and the Englishes of the Pacific and Indian Oceans [Micronesia; Polynesia; Melanesia – and I am getting into Papua New Guinean English and Solomons English – Fijian English is really special too – and the Englishes of Tonga and both Samoa].
Of course there is a thing called Franglais where lots of anglicisms complement and even dominate.
“Homer” was one of the sporting words I had picked up when I was a little girl. Home runs in rounders were often called this sort of thing by those who were baseball- and cricket-influenced.
What a great Cambridge Dictionary word – and I enjoyed the premise/the way and the why involved.
The etymological meaning is not given here. It is not adequately explained.
I found it interesting that the word Homer would be the Cambridge Dictionary Word of the year. I personally have never used that word ,except during A baseball game as referring to a homerun. i found it very interesting.
I LOVE word games; I normally use British English, so sometimes playing Wordle infuriates me due to spelling differences ;.)