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Word of the Year 2019

It’s that time again... Every year here at HH, we turn over our choice of Word of the Year to you lovely people, and the time has come to crown a winner for 2019. As always, we’ve shortlisted what we hope are five suitably appropriate words from among those that proved both timely and popular here on the HH Twitter feed this year, and have opened up the votes to you. You can read all about the shortlisted words here, and cast your votes at the bottom of the page.


Voting closes in just a few days—so be quick to make sure your vote counts! ​

afterworld (n.)

a future state of existence; a later generation

Arguably one of the themes of 2019 was that of decisions being made and actions being taken that will have profound consequences not now, but long into 2020 and beyond. From political upheaval to environmental concerns, the full effects of these actions (or, as might be more appropriate, inactions) won’t come to pass until some time in the future—when today’s younger generation, whose voices have in some cases been ignored, will have to deal with them. Coined in the sixteenth century, afterworld is a word for precisely this future world or state of existence—or for the later generation who will occupy it. And after a year of “OK-boomerism”, perhaps this is the word of 2019.

fallaciloquence (n.)

the telling of lies and falsehoods

Our lovely friends over at Oxford Dictionaries called this one out a few years back: worried about an ever-growing tide of disinformation, they made post truth their Word of the Year way back in 2016. But arguably, it’s a tide that has only grown larger and more forceful, with widely circulated lies and unchecked propaganda stealing a lion’s share of headlines this year. Perhaps that’s enough to make fallaciloquence, or fallaciloquy—a word for the deliberate telling of lies and falsehoods—your Word of 2019?

arriviste (n.)

someone who ambitiously and ruthlessly advances themselves to a high-ranking position, which they are largely unfit for or unworthy of

Arriviste was one of the most popular words on HH this year. It’s a term borrowed into English from French in the nineteenth century, ​for someone who ruthlessly or ambitiously secures a position of power, despite their absolute unworthiness for the job. It’s by no means a modern phenomenon (we’ve been using this word since 1895), but given some of the, er, powerful figures now leading us into 2020, perhaps this will prove your (albeit somewhat unwelcome) choice for the Word of 2019.

symmachy (n.)

the act of working together against a common enemy

Let’s face it, we’re heading into 2020 with more than a few fights on our hands—and we’re all still as divided as ever. So to overcome the problems ahead of us, we really need to start working together—and symmachy is a word for precisely that. Originally a seventeenth century word for wartime aid or military alliances, symmachy literally means a “fighting together”. But in looser terms—and in testing times—it’s a word for co-operation and community-spiritedness, especially between disparate parties who might not ordinarily get along. If you’re looking for a more optimistic word to see out the year, perhaps this is it?

traumatropism (n.)

the regrowth of a plant or tree, after earlier trauma or destruction

2019 was a year in which our attention was turned more than ever before to climate change and the environment; in fact the folks at Collins Dictionaries have already crowned climate strike their word of the year. 


Can we act swiftly enough to undo the damage we’ve already caused? We can only hope so—and with an eye to staying positive about the global future ahead of us, the word traumatropism rounds off this year’s shortlist. Coined in the late 1800s, it describes the regrowth of a plant or tree—in an often unusual or unwieldy shape—as the result of earlier damage or destruction. It’s a word to remind us that nature can always recover, no matter how destructive the forces holding it back. Whether we give it the chance to, of course, is another matter. 

Cast your votes here...