Who do you think you are?
It’s been an important question in 2015. From Caitlyn Jenner to Rachel Dolezal, the idea of self-identification played a prominent role in some of the biggest news stories of the year.
Race, sexuality and gender are the live-wire topics that inspired Dictionary.com to pick “identity” as its word of the year for 2015.
“Our data indicated a growing interest in words related to identity, as people encountered new terms throughout the year based on events tied to gender, sexuality, race, and other key issues,” Liz McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com, said in a news release. “Many words surrounding these topics trended or were newly added to our dictionary this year, making identity the clear front-runner as the Word of the Year.”
Miley Cyrus declared herself pansexual in an interview with Paper magazine in July, sending many running to their dictionary of choice to figure out what exactly that means. For the record, it refers to people who are attracted to multiple sexes or gender identities.
“The trends that we saw linguistically all point to a larger shift in the way society thinks about identity as being more fluid, which was evidenced by the increase in related events and news headlines,” McMillan said.
Jenner’s historic Vanity Fair cover kindled discussions of transgender identity among those who sympathized with the Olympian’s road to finding herself as well as some who looked askance at her transition.
The Black Lives Matter movement rallied to shine a light on African-Americans killed during encounters with law enforcement throughout the year and emphasize the value of lives protestors say are being treated cheaply.
Meanwhile, Rachel Dolezal, a woman who was born white but identifies as black, tested the boundaries of racial identity after being called out.
The Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same sex marriage had a transformative effect on definitions of marriage, according to Dictionary.com.
Words within the realm of “identity” such as cisgender, omnisexual, asexual, microaggression, gender-fluid, Mx. and sapiosexual also saw a boost in search traffic this year on the site.
The company updated and added more identity-related definitions to the site today, including:
identify: to associate oneself in feeling, interest, action, etc., with a specified group or belief system (usually followed by as or with).
code-switching: the modifying of one’s behavior, appearance, etc. to adapt to different sociocultural norms.
gender expression: the external expression of gender roles, as through socially defined behaviors and ways of dressing.
Dictionary.com’s 2014 word of the year was “exposure.”
“In 2014, the Ebola virus, widespread theft of personal information, and shocking acts of violence and brutality dominated the news,” the site explained in a blog post. “Vulnerability and visibility were at the core of the year’s most notable headlines.”