What these new dictionary words really say about 2019

Non-binary, climate strike, deepfake and milkshaking have been added to the Collins Dictionary – but what’s their significance?

The language we use is shaped by the society we live in, which explains why it changes so much. We’ve all got an older family member from another generation who proves this during an uncomfortable conversation at an annual get-together, right? Then, there are all the dating terms we have to keep up with. And it wasn’t so long ago that Brexit meant absolutely nothing (arguably, this is still true).

New words are officially added to the Collins Dictionary every year to reflect this. And, with 2019 being one hell of a rollercoaster, the latest additions say a lot about what’s happened this year.

So, let’s take a look at why these words have made it into the dictionary.


Non-binary is now recognised as an official term, defined as: relating to a gender or sexual identity that does not conform to the binary categories of male or female, heterosexual or homosexual.

In recent months, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, actor Rose McGowan and singer Sam Smith have spoken out about their non-binary identities.

“The older I get, the more I think that I’m non-binary – I’m gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman,” said Van Ness.


Hopepunk is a TV genre that “weaponises optimism” in response to the dark dystopian times of Trump and Brexit. Think of the good-overcomes-bad spirit of Game Of Thrones and the purely good vibes of The Great British Bake Off and Queer Eye.

Collins has defined it as: “A literary and artistic movement that celebrates the pursuit of positive aims in the face of adversity”.

Climate strike

Technically two words, but let’s roll with it. Thanks to Greta Thunberg’s ongoing protest against the climate crisis, “climate strike” was used on average 100 times more this year than in 2018. That’s why it’s actually been named the word of the year (go Greta!). 

It is defined by Collins as: a form of protest in which people absent themselves from education or work in order to join demonstrations demanding action to counter climate change. 


Worryingly, deepfake highlights the disturbing Black Mirror vibes of the real world.

As a noun, Collins describe deepfake as: a technique by which a digital image or video can be superimposed onto another, which maintains the appearance of an unedited image or video.”

As a verb, it means “to superimpose one digital image or video onto another so that it maintains the appearance of an unedited image or video”.

The criminalisation of deepfaking is actually being reviewed under a Law Commission review, along with revenge porn and cyber-flashing.


A rogue entry, you might first think. But “milkshaking” defines the infamous moment that a man threw a milkshake at Nigel Farage. It’s been included in the dictionary’s top-ten Brexit themed words of the year. 

These words highlight a mix of the positives and negatives of 2019, there were plenty of both. 

Images: Getty

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