A home run in a baseball game

Homer, an informal American English word for a home run in baseball, is Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2022, thanks to Wordle.

English speakers continue to be divided over differences between English language varieties

Wendalyn Nichols

The Cambridge Dictionary has revealed its word of the year for 2022 as 'homer'. Editors have credited disgruntled Wordle players whose winning streak was ended by the unfamiliar American English term.

Homer, an informal American English word for a home run in baseball, was searched for nearly 75,000 times on the Cambridge Dictionary website during the first week of May when it was an answer in the online five-letter word puzzle.

It became the dictionary's highest-spiking word of the year, and editors said five-letter Wordle answers dominated searches this year as the game became a global phenomenon.

Tellingly, 95% of searches for homer were from outside North America as baffled Wordle players turned to the Cambridge Dictionary to find out what it meant.

Some speakers of British English expressed frustration on social media about the choice of 'homer' as the Wordle answer for 5 May. But many players would have been rewarded for demonstrating Cambridge Dictionary's Word of the Year 2021: perseverance.

In 2022, the American spelling of humor caused the second highest spike. In third place was caulk, a word more familiar in American English than in British English, meaning to fill the spaces around the edge of something, for example a bath or window frame, with a special substance.

Wendalyn Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary's publishing manager, said: "Wordle's words, and the public's reactions to them, illustrate how English speakers continue to be divided over differences between English language varieties, even when they're playing a globally popular new word game that has brought people together online for friendly competition about language.

"The differences between British and American English are always of interest not just to learners of English but to English speakers globally, and word games are also perennially entertaining.

"We've seen those two phenomena converge in the public conversations about Wordle, and the way five-letter words have simply taken over the lookups on the Cambridge Dictionary website."

Searches for Wordle's five-letter words on the Cambridge Dictionary website squeezed out other high-interest words that reflected current affairs. These included oligarch, likely triggered by new international sanctions and geopolitical shifts amid Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine. Ableist spiked during the controversy over the use of an ableist slur in lyrics to the pop song Grrrls by Lizzo.

Additions to the Cambridge Dictionary this year have included shrinkflation, defined as the situation when the price of a product stays the same but its size gets smaller.

Cambridge University Press has been publishing dictionaries for learners of English since 1995. Cambridge Dictionary began offering these dictionaries completely free of charge online in 1999 and is now the top learner dictionary website in the world, serving 2.6 billion page views a year.

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