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.
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!