“Post-truth” has been named as Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year after a spike in its use around the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s presidential bid.
Usage of the adjective, which describes circumstances where emotions and personal beliefs are more influential than facts, increased by around 2,000% since last year, the dictionary’s research showed.
The word has been in existence for more than two decades but a rise in its use coincided with the EU referendum and the US presidential race, Oxford Dictionaries announced on Wednesday.
Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, told the Press Association: ‘It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse.
“Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, ‘post-truth’ as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.
“We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and again in July when Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination.”
Post-truth was chosen from a shortlist that included “Brexiteer”, a supporter of the UK’s EU exit, and “hygge”, a cosiness associated with contentment in Danish culture.
The dictionary defines “post-truth” as: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Its earliest usage with this meaning was in a 1992 essay on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Gulf War by playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine, according to Oxford Dictionaries.
Grathwohl added: “Given that usage of the term hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘post-truth’ becomes one of the defining words of our time.”
The announcement comes after Facebook and Google revealed they would attempt to discourage the publication of fake news by banning rogue publishers from using their ad networks to generate revenue.
The internet giants have come under fire for allowing false stories to be widely shared, including those claiming Hollywood star Denzel Washington backed Trump, that Barack Obama warned Trump not to attack his wife and that Hillary Clinton cancelled a public event because the crowd shouted “lock her up”.
The announcement of this year’s winner felt like it summed up 2016 to many on social media.
Previous winners include “omnishambles” in 2012, “big society” in 2010 and last year’s hotly-debated “face with tears of joy” emoji.