Oxford Names ‘Climate Emergency’ Its 2019 Word of the Year

The Word of the Year designation is intended to highlight “a word or expression shown through usage evidence to reflect the ethos, mood or preoccupations of the passing year.”

The use of the...

The use of the term “climate emergency” increased by a hundredfold since 2018, according to data collected in the Oxford Corpus, a database containing hundreds of millions of words of written English. In fact, it was the most common compound involving “emergency,” occurring three times as often as the next most-common, “health emergency.”

In part, Ms. Martin noted, this reflects a deliberate decision by some news organizations, including The Guardian[1], to use “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” instead of “climate change,” to better convey the urgency of the situation.

Oxford’s choice of an all-environmental shortlist, Ms. Martin said, did not reflect a similar deliberate attention to focus people’s attention, but a reading, if a necessarily subjective one, of the lexicographic evidence.

“When we considered all the possibilities, a narrative really coalesced this year around words associated with ecological concerns,” she said.


  1. ^ including The Guardian (

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