Oxford Dictionaries’ 2013 word of the year is ‘selfie’

Use of the word for a photograph taken of oneself, by oneself, has had a ‘phenomenal upward trend’ this year, according to Oxford’s editorial director.

The phenomenon of taking a picture of oneself isn’t a new trend. Thumb through a box of old Polaroids, and you’re likely to find a few shots taken from arm’s length.

The word for that type of photo, “selfie,” isn’t particularly new, either. The editors of the Oxford English Dictionaries have traced its first back to 2002, in an Australian online forum. But 2013 was its moment. To mark the occasion, Oxford has named “selfie” its 2013 word of the year.

Oxford explained that this year the word evolved “from a social media buzzword to mainstream shorthand for a self-portrait photograph.”

Use of the word has increased 17,000 percent since 2012, Reuters reports. “Selfie” has also been the basis for a few portmanteaus, including “helfie” (a shot specifically of hair), “drelfie” (a drunk selfie) and “welfie” (a shot taken during a workout).

Oxford Editorial Director Judy Pearsall said “selfie” has been used on Flickr since 2004, but has had a “phenomenal upward trend” in 2013. It was added to Oxford’s online dictionary in August.

She also observed that the use of the “-ie” ending instead of a “-y” “helps to turn an essentially narcissistic enterprise into something rather more endearing.” It also helps prove the word originated in Australia, given that country’s penchant for “-ie” word endings.

Other nominees for word of the year included “binge-watch,” “bitcoin,” “olinguito,” “showrooming,” and “twerk.”

According to Time, “twerk,” the word for a dance performed in a squatting stance and brought forcefully to the world’s attention by singer Miley Cyrus, was robbed.

A comparison of Google search volume for the two words reveals that while both surged in 2013, ‘twerk’ saw both greater average search volume and a higher search peak than ‘selfie’ did,” writer Lily Rothman argued.

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