Oxford Dictionaries today announced its 2017 Word of the Year: ‘youthquake’.
Youthquake is defined as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’.
The word was selected from a shortlist using data collated by Oxford Dictionaries editors, which revealed a fivefold increase in usage of youthquake in 2017 compared to 2016.
The word first struck in a big way in June with the UK’s general election at its epicentre.
On 18 April, Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of the Conservatives, called a snap election triggering seven weeks of intense political campaigning. After the British public went to the polls on 8 June, headlines emerged of an unexpected insurgence of young voters.
So despite higher engagement figures among the baby boomer generation and despite Labour ultimately ending up with fewer seats than the Conservatives in the House of Commons, many commentators declared that ‘It was the young wot “won” it for Jeremy Corbyn’, and dubbed their collective actions a ‘youthquake’.
It was in September that the second, and largest, spike in usage of youthquake was recorded for the year – and a youthquake wasn’t even required to deliver this data.
Thanks to the precedent established in the UK, in New Zealand use of youthquake to discuss young people’s engagement in politics was rapidly picked up by politicians and the press alike during the country’s general election. The word enjoyed increased and sustained usage both prior to and after the polling, setting youthquake firmly on its way to become a fixture of political discourse.
The term was coined when, in 1965, emerging from a post-war period of tumultuous change, Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of Vogue, declared the year of the youthquake.
In an editorial in the Vogue US January edition that year, she wrote: ‘The year’s in its youth, the youth in its year. … More dreamers. More doers. Here. Now. Youthquake 1965.’
Oxford Dictionaries President Casper Grathwohl said that while youthquake had not yet made an impression in the US, evidence showed that it certainly had made an impression in the UK.
“We chose youthquake based on its evidence and linguistic interest. But most importantly for me, at a time when our language is reflecting our deep unrest and exhausted nerves, it is a rare political word that sounds a hopeful note.”
Youthquake was selected from the shortlist below.
Find more about youthquake at Oxford Dictionaries.