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1 December 2016 /

‘Paranoid’ announced as the Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year

The Cambridge Dictionary team have chosen paranoid as their Word of the Year for 2016. Researchers examined the data from the hundreds of millions of searches on to see which words sparked the most interest in 2016, and found that paranoid stood out as the clear frontrunner. 

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Cambridge Dictionary team saw such a large spike in searches for paranoid after what has been a truly eventful, and indeed worrying, year. In June, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, causing great uncertainty in the UK and across Europe (even now, the only certainty we have is that Brexit means Brexit); then, in November, after a brutal and divisive campaign, the people of the United States elected businessman Donald Trump as president ahead of politician Hillary Clinton, in one of the most extraordinary political stories of modern times. Add to this the ongoing backdrop of a bloody civil war in Syria, several terrorist attacks around the world and a number of shock celebrity deaths.

Wendalyn Nichols, Publishing Manager for Dictionaries at Cambridge University Press, said: ‘As ever, global events are reflected in the words that are looked up on the Cambridge Dictionary site. We found a fourfold increase in searches for the word paranoid from all over the world, suggesting that people may be less trusting than they used to be and that the world as a whole feels a lot more uncertain than it did compared with even a year ago.’

Paranoid wasn’t the only instance where world events have influenced search spikes, with the data highlighting large increases in words along a similar theme: anxiety and chaos; increases in prejudice, bigotry and bullying; and people feeling nostalgic for what are perceived as simpler, more settled and happier times.

But it’s not all doom and gloom: another word that has seen a big increase in searches is adorable – perhaps Cambridge Dictionary users are comforting themselves with online videos of cute animals and trying to think happier thoughts?

Notes to editors:

For further information please contact Leanne McCormick at or call 01223 326194.

About Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Dedicated to excellence, its purpose is to further the University’s objective of advancing knowledge, education, learning and research. Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise 45,000 titles covering academic research, professional development, more than 350 research journals, school level education, English language teaching and bible publishing. Playing a leading role in today’s international marketplace, Cambridge University Press has more than 50 offices around the world, and it distributes products to nearly every country in the world.  

About Cambridge Dictionary

With over 18 million monthly active users, Cambridge Dictionary is a trusted online language reference for English learners, teachers and native speakers all over the world. Informed by the Cambridge English Corpus of more than 1.5 billion words, the Cambridge Dictionary website is constantly updated with new words, meanings, examples and additional material, reflecting the dynamic nature of the English language and its global community of speakers.

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