What you need to know about 'xenophobia,' Dictionary.com's word of the year.

And the Dictionary.com award for "Word of the Year 2016" goes to...

GIF via originbob/YouTube.

Xenophobia!

The word means a "fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers," and it has dominated the conversation so much in 2016 that it's taken the most prestigious end-of-year word-award in the land.


As Dictionary.com's blog explains of the choice, "We aim to pick a Word of the Year that embodies a major theme resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness over the prior 12 months. This year, some of the most prominent news stories have centered around fear of the 'other.'"

Unfortunately, Dictionary.com is right. 2016 has been an action-packed year for fear and/or hatred of "other" marginalized groups.

There was a massive refugee crisis that sparked a series of surprisingly high-level debates on whether "refugee" and "terrorist" could be used synonymously (they can't). There were undeniably xenophobic undertones to Britain's decision to leave the European Union. And of course...

Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

...there was Donald Trump — a candidate whose campaign was peppered with one xenophobic sentiment after another, and who has helped usher in the mainstream rise of white nationalist movements like the so-called "alt-right."

That said, declaring "xenophobia" the word of the year isn't, strictly speaking, a bad thing.

For one, it shows people are interested in learning more about what exactly it is.

Photo by Evan Porter/Upworthy.

To find candidates for "Word of the Year," Dictionary.com says it looks at internal search trends. "Xenophobia" saw a spike in traffic several times in 2016. On June 24, one day after the Brexit vote, dictionary searches for the word spiked by an incredible 938%. Hundreds of people were looking up the word per hour.

A similar spike in search traffic occurred on June 29 after President Obama made a speech expressing concern over Donald Trump's political rhetoric.

Sure, some of those people might have just been looking up the spelling so they could lay it down in a decimating Scrabble move, but odds are, many were looking it up because they were hearing it thrown around a lot and wanted to know what it meant. That's a good thing.

A woman protesting xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2015. Photo by Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images.

The first step toward addressing a toxic problem is becoming personally and culturally aware of what that problem is.

When we know the word xenophobia, it becomes easier to speak out when we see it or to use it to identify our own prejudices. Xenophobia is not a word to be celebrated, but it's an important one to understand so we can all get better at stopping it.

Looking it up in the dictionary is a good place to start.

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

Sir David Attenborough has one of the most recognized and beloved voices in the world. The British broadcaster and nature historian has spent most of his 94 years on Earth educating humanity about the wonders of the natural world, inspiring multiple generations to care about the planet we all call home.

And now, Attenborough has made a new name for himself. Not only has he joined the cool kids on Instagram, he's broken the record for reaching a million followers in the shortest period. It only took four hours and 44 minutes, which is less time than it took Jennifer Aniston, who held the title before him at 5 hours and 16 minutes.

A day later, Attenborough is sitting at a whopping 3.4 million followers. And he only has two Instagram posts so far, both of them videos. But just watch his first one and you'll see why he's attracted so many fans.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


There are very few people who have had quite as memorable a life as Arnold Schwarzenegger. His adult life has played out in four acts, with each one arguably more consequential than the last.

And now Schwarzenegger wants to play a role in helping America, his adopted home, ensure that our 2020 election is safe, secure and available to everyone willing and able to vote.

Shortly after immigrating to America, Schwarzenegger rose up to become the most famous bodybuilder in history, turning what was largely a sideshow attraction into a legitimate sport. He then pivoted to an acting career, becoming Hollywood's highest paid star in a run that spanned three decades.


Keep Reading Show less

One night in 2018, Sheila and Steve Albers took their two youngest sons out to dinner. Their 17-year-old son, John, was in a crabby mood—not an uncommon occurrence for the teen who struggled with mental health issues—so he stayed home.

A half hour later, Sheila's started getting text messages that John wasn't safe. He had posted messages with suicidal ideations on social media and his friends had called the police to check on him. The Albers immediately raced home.

When they got there, they were met with a surreal scene. Their minivan was in the neighbor's yard across the street. John had been shot in the driver's seat six times by a police officer who had arrived to check on him. The officer had fired two shots as the teen slowly backed the van out of the garage, then 11 more after the van spun around backward. But all the officers told the Albers was that John had "passed" and had been shot. They wouldn't find out until the next day who had shot and killed him.

Keep Reading Show less