Story at a glance

  • The UK’s Collins Dictionary has chosen “climate strike” as the word of the year for 2019.
  • Collins lexicographers track over 9.5 billion words to find 10 that signal shifts in culture.
  • The striking choice follows a year of worldwide protests calling for climate action.

Each year, lexicographers at Collins Dictionary track the use of 9.5 billion words for ten “new and notable” words and phrases that signify shifts in culture. Now, they’ve announced that 2019’s word of the year is “climate strike” after a hundredfold increase in use compared to last year.

A climate strike is “a form of protest in which people absent themselves from education or work in order to join demonstrations demanding action to counter climate change,” according to Collins. The first climate strike happened in 2015 during the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, the Guardian reports. But in 2018, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began a school strike for climate, inspiring an international movement after her one-person protest gained media attention.

This March, a coordinated climate strike drew more than 1.5 million students together to walk out of schools in more than 120 countries, The Verge reports. And, in September, employees of major tech companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft did the same, walking out in protest of unsustainable practices. More climate strikes are expected at the end of 2019, coinciding with a UN climate conference happening in Madrid.

Collins’ choice for word of the year in 2018 was “single use,” referring to disposable plastic products, as awareness rose about plastic pollution. Other environmental contenders this year were “rewilding,” meaning returning used land to a wild state, and “hopepunk,” meaning “a literary and artistic movement that celebrates the pursuit of positive aims in the face of adversity.”

Published on Nov 08, 2019