From 'permacrisis' to 'goblin mode', words of the year perfectly capture the mood of 2022

In the year of 'quiet quitting' and 'vibe shift', it's the words that encompass our shifting mental landscapes that came to the fore

'Goblin mode' was selected as Oxford Dictionary's word of the year. Photo: Adrian Swancar/Unsplash
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Have you found yourself in goblin mode, worrying about a permacrisis or wondering if you’re being gaslit in 2022? If so, you are not alone.

Those are some of the words and phrases named 2022’s words of the year by major dictionaries and language associations, offering insight into the zeitgeist of a post-pandemic world.

Here’s a closer look at the words chosen and their definitions:

Goblin mode - Oxford Languages

Even if you haven’t heard the phrase “goblin mode” before, it’s likely that you will have unknowingly entered it at some point over the past 12 months.

Defined as “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations,” the phrase took off on social media in 2022, with many people embracing their inner goblin.

Chosen word of the year by public vote by Oxford Languages, which publishes the Oxford English Dictionary, it won by a landslide 93 per cent. The other words in the running were “metaverse” and “#Istandwith.”

Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, said they were shocked by the level of public engagement in the campaign.

"The strength of the response highlights how important our vocabulary is to understanding who we are and processing what's happening to the world around us,” he said.

"Given the year we've just experienced, 'goblin mode' resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point. It's a relief to acknowledge that we're not always the idealised, curated selves that we're encouraged to present on our Instagram and TikTok feeds."

Gaslighting - Merriam-Webster

Gaslighting” — mind manipulating, grossly misleading, downright deceitful — is online US dictionary Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.

While the word has been in common use for several years, searches for the word increased by 1,740 per cent in 2022 over the year before. But there wasn’t a single event that drove significant spikes in curiosity, as it usually goes with the chosen word of the year.

“It’s a word that has risen so quickly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it actually came as a surprise to me and to many of us,” said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large.

“It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year.”

Permacrisis - Collins Dictionary

Seeing as we have all lived through something of a permacrisis in recent years, it’s perhaps unsurprising that it has been named Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2022.

Defined by Collins as “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events”.

Other words and phrases added by Collins for the year include “lawfare”, “quiet quitting”, “vibe shift”, “Kyiv’” and “splooting”.

"Our list this year reflects the state of the world right now — not much good news," said Alex Beecroft, head of Collins Learning. “It sums up just how truly awful 2022 has been for so many people.”

Homer – Cambridge Dictionary

If you were one of the millions to get swept up in the Wordle hype this year, then the mere sight of the word “homer” may trigger a slight rage in you.

The sporting term is short for “home run” and is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “a point scored in baseball when you hit the ball, usually out of the playing field, and are able to run around all the bases at one time to the starting base”.

Search for the word spiked earlier this year when it was used in the daily game Wordle, much to the dismay of many non-US players, who had never heard the term before, causing thousands to break their prized winning streak.

Updated: December 13, 2022, 5:10 AM