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NFT, cheugy, and double-vaxxed are 2021’s words of the year

Collins Dictionary has announced its words of 2021, summing up the moods or preoccupations of the past year – lucky us

Each year, Collins Dictionary selects words of the year that reflect the mood or preoccupation of the passing year which will have lasting cultural significance. Last year, the words of the year were ‘lockdown’ and ‘BLM’ – reflecting on our year trapped inside and the global protests after George Floyd’s killing in May. The year before, ‘cancel culture’; in 2015, ‘vape’; and 2014, the crying laughing emoji (we still aren’t sure why). 

Summing up this year are ‘NFT’, ‘cheugy’, ‘double-vaxxed’, and ‘metaverse’. Lucky us!

Beating out ‘crypto’, NFT is defined by Collins Dictionary as: “Non-fungible token: a unique digital certificate, registered in a blockchain, that is used to record ownership of an asset such as an artwork or a collectible.” 

The past year has seen an explosion of the digital collectibles across arts, tech, and culture – from Kate Moss auctioning off a triptych of NFTs capturing her private life, to repackaged OG internet memes, Cara Delevigne vulva replica, and even the code for the original World Wide Web

“NFTs seem to be everywhere, from the arts sections to the financial pages and in galleries and auction houses and across social media platforms,” said Collins Learning managing director Alex Beecroft, noting that it’s rare for an abbreviation to rise drastically in usage. “Whether the NFT will have a lasting influence is yet to be determined, but its sudden presence in conversations around the world makes it very clearly our word of the year.”

Other internet-related words includes ‘cheugy’ – which refers to out of date, unfashionable, and often millennial people or things – and ‘metaverse’ (yes, as in Mark Zuckerberg’s latest business endeavor).

Following Collins’ 2020 list – which centred pandemic-related words like ‘lockdown’, ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolate’, ‘furlough’, and ‘key worker’ – this year’s shortlist includes ’double-vaxxed’, and Oxford Dictionary’s top word this year is ‘vax’.

“It’s not that surprising it’s something related to vaccination because these things try to get a spirit of the times, and people have spent more time thinking about vaccines than they ever have before,” Cardiff University sociolinguistics professor Dr Mercedes Durham told The Guardian. “(Vax) itself… almost has a meme quality. With a meme you take the picture and add things, words, on to it. In some ways you take ‘vax’ and add ‘passport’ or ‘anti’ or ‘double’ and because it’s such a short word you can add different things onto it.”

Meanwhile, ‘climate anxiety’ made the list – reflecting on society’s growing concerns about climate change. This past year, climate-related fears were emphasised by the UN’s ‘code red for humanity’ climate report warning and climate summit COP26, which was critically described by Greta Thunberg as “Blah, blah, blah”. 

Check out Collins Dictionary’s full list in the post below.