A World of Words: the 2014 Words of the Year Posted by on Dec 31, 2014 in Archived Posts

As we wrap up 2014 and march boldly forward into 2015 (hopefully armed with lofty new language learning goals!), we are bombarded with a barrage of year-end lists and rankings. While I don’t quite care about the top 10 selfies of 2014, I do find one of the year-end campaigns quite interesting: the words of the year around the world!

Image by Anthony Quintano on

Image by Anthony Quintano on under CC BY 2.0

Below I’ve gathered all of the 2014 Words of the Year that I could find—feel free to add to the list in the comments:

English: U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster declared “culture” the 2014 Word of the Year, based on the number of online searches in 2014 and the significant increase in lookups since 2013. Meanwhile in the U.K., Oxford Dictionaries chose “vape”, indicating the growing population of e-cigarettes in 2014.

German: Germany has the distinct pleasure of selecting not only a Word of the Year (Wort des Jahres) but also an Un-word of the Year (Unwort des Jahres). In a nod to the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Word of the Year was “Lichtgrenze” (literally “lightborder”). Along the line where the Wall once stood, Berlin erected a temporary line of illuminated balloons, aptly named the “Lichtgrenze”. (Note that the “Unwort” hasn’t been selected as of now, but I’ll update once I find it!)

French: The French had a bit more fun with it, choosing the most innovative new words of the year. In 2014, the XYZ Festival of New Words selected two: “médicalmant” and “casse-crotte”. The former is a play on “médicalement”, referring to a medicine used to calm oneself. The latter, which literally means “brown turd” (insert giggles here), plays on “casse-croûte” (snack) to describe a particularly bad meal.

Japanese: The Japanese made a much more serious selection. Chosen by a national ballot, the Kanji of the Year in 2014 was  (zei, “tax”), likely a reaction to the first consumption tax raise in 17 years that was announced back in April.

Chinese: The Chinese word of the year was also chosen by the public (for the first time) in a survey by the Chinese National Language Monitoring and Research Center. Judges compiled feedback from more than 230 million people online in order to “anti-corruption” (反腐败) as the 2014 word of the year. No explanation necessary, there.

Dutch: A word that does need some explanation is this year’s Dutch word. Each year, the Van Dale dictionary nominates a few candidates for word van het jaar, and the Dutch public is invited to vote. This year they chose “dagobertducktaks”, which refers to a new tax placed on the Netherlands’ ultra rich. Dagobert is actually the Dutch name for Donald Duck’s grumpy uncle, better known in English as Scrooge McDuck.

Norwegian: The Norwegian word of the year isn’t quite as laughable. Norway’s Language Council selected “fremmedkriger”, literally “foreign fighter” as the 2014 winner, likely in reference to the number of Norwegians reported to be fighting in Syria’s civil war.

So there you have it, the 2014 words of the year! If you’re planning to learn a new language in 2015 and  pick up a new word or two (or thousand) in 2015, we can help. Get in the habit of learning a language with our free eBook:

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About the Author: meaghan

Meaghan is the Marketing Communications Manager at Transparent Language. She speaks enough French and Spanish to survive, and remembers enough Hausa to say "Hello my name is Meaghan, I'm studying Hausa." (But sadly that's it).


  1. Martin:

    I would like to note that Dutch is also spoken in the Flemisch region of Belgium and also has it’s own word of the year: flitsmarathon.

    • meaghan:

      @Martin Thank you for sharing! It’s always interesting to see regional discrepancies.

  2. Kevin McGwin:

    In Denmark, the word of the year (årets ord) was “Mobilepay” (yes the English words ‘mobile’ and ‘pay’). It is the name of a payment platform for mobile telephones that saw rapid growth in usage last year.

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