This list of every 'Word of the Year' is like taking a trip through time


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Samantha Lee/Business Insider


Hashtag. Metrosexual. Occupy.

Those three words have one thing in common - they've all been named "Word of the Year."

Every year since 1990, members of the American Dialect Society have gathered at their annual convention - once called "the Super Bowl of linguistics" - to crown the word that defined the year. The linguists and lexicographers vote on words based on their predominance in headlines and widespread use throughout the country.

Anything considered a "lexical item" can be nominated, meaning multi-word phrases like "dumpster fire" - named 2016's Word of the Year earlier this month - are fair game. The same goes for hashtags, prefixes, and even emoji.


Because each Word of the Year is closely tied with the era that spawned it, looking back at the list of every winner is like flipping through a yearbook of the past quarter-century. There's the surge of Internet-related words like "cyber" and "information superhighway" in the early 1990s and a string of political words like "chad" and "weapons of mass destruction" that reflected the climate of the early 2000s.

More recently, tech words like "tweet" and "app" have dominated the vote, demonstrating how much the internet has influenced our language.

Take a look at every Word of the Year, and take a trip through time.