07/11/2018 15:59 GMT

What You Need To Know About The Words Of The Year 2018 – From 'Single-Use' to 'Plogging', 'Gammon' and 'Gaslighting'

Here's WTAF those words mean, and how they came into being.

Another year, another evolution of the English language. Plogging, gaslighting, single-use, and gammon are among the latest words climbing their way into the forefront of our linguistic canon, according to the Collins Dictionary.

The words were among 10 shortlisted for ‘Word of the Year’ - with single-use securing top spot. All of the new meanings of these words will be added to the dictionary, a spokesperson told HuffPost UK, and they have been chosen by a team of expert lexicographers. 

If you don’t know what those words mean or why they’re significant enough to make the 2018 list - read on.

afishman64 via Getty Images

Single-use 🥤

Crowned this year’s winner, the word “single-use” has truly been catapulted onto the agenda and into the dictionary as a new definition: “made to be used once only.” It describes a type of plastic which is used once then chucked in the bin, recycled, littered, or landfilled.

This focus on the perils of plastic was kickstarted by Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series on the BBC last year, but the volume has been growing ever since. 

Over the past year, various studies have showed us the impact of plastic on the environment: from finding it in table salt, seabirds and starfish, to predicting it will one day be fossilised and that this era will be known as the ‘plastic age’.

[Read More: Why is there plastic in my table salt?]

Gammon 🍖

Not the ham - but a man who is typically white, has right of centre politics and is pro-Brexit, with conservative social values.

Gammon is used as an insult, and - just like the term snowflake - is a real sign of our times. A quick look at its origins suggests it have begun on Twitter, with people using it as a term to describe the red-cheeked flush that some angry, animated men appear to get when talking about politics, especially audience members during shows like the BBC’s ‘Question Time’.  Surprisingly, however, its real origins are possibly Victorian – Dickens uses it in Nicholas Nickleby.


Gaslighting is a nasty way to control and manipulate someone - usually within a relationship - by lying constantly and making them question their own sanity. 

For example, if a person believed their partner was being unfaithful, instead of having a conversation about their concerns, their partner would respond by calling them derogatory names like “crazy”.

The issue of gaslighting has been propelled into society this year, primarily via our TV screens when Women’s Aid publicly accused a ‘Love Island’ contestant of gaslighting his on-screen partner, after she challenged his behaviour.  

Plogging 🏃

Sometimes there’s a disconnect between what the media writes about as a trend, and what actually is a trend. Because when is the last time you saw someone jogging around with armfuls of rubbish in hand?

But nonetheless plogging is, according to the Collins Dictionary, “a recreational activity, originating in Sweden, that combines jogging with picking up litter” that is popular enough to have its own brand new place in the English dictionary.


A backstop is “a system that will come into effect if no other arrangement is made” according to the dictionary. This is what’s going to happen if the prime minister Theresa May doesn’t successfully negotiate the UK out of the EU. 

The more official term for backstop is the Government’s Temporary Customs Arrangement plan.

Flossing 🕺

So rarely has a simple dance confused people so completely. Flossing, not to be confused with the dental kind, is “a dance in which people twist their hips in one direction while swinging their arms in the opposite direction with the fists closed”. It started off as something kids did for a challenge online, but soon found its way onto our news channels when the likes of Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also tried to give it a go. 


This term needs little introduction. According to the definition it denotes a “cultural movement that seeks to expose and eradicate predatory sexual behaviour, especially in the workplace”.

The movement has dominated headlines globally since the first revelations about former now disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein came to light. Examples of sexual harassment have since been exposed in all corners of industry - from politics to business. 

Vegan 🌱

Not a new word, but certainly a buzzword,  “vegan” was also shortlisted by Collins Dictionary for word of the year to reflect the lifestyle choice becoming increasingly mainstream – from January’s ‘Veganuary’ to The Great British Bake-off’s ‘vegan week’.


To whitewash is to “cast a white actor in the role of a character from a minority ethnic group or to produce a film or play using white actors to play characters from a minority ethnic group”.

Critics say that TV and film companies should instead be investing in hiring diverse talent.


VAR, or sometimes just VA, stands for “video assistant referee” according to Collins.

It’s an all-new technology that was used for the first time in a major tournament during the World Cup and it supports the referee down in the stadium by providing them with real-time video analysis using a huge network of cameras including some pretty advanced 3D modelling software that can specifically check if a player is offside or not, whether they committed a foul, or were wrongly booked.