Dictionary Site Just Chose Its Word of the Year — and It’s as Silly as You Expect

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

It appears Dictionary.com is attempting to establish its woke bona fides by pandering to the progressive social justice warrior crowd. At a time when woke corporatism is all the rage, this particular move comes as no surprise.


The website has selected the word “allyship” as its “Word of the Year” for 2021. The term is a reference to the social justice movement and is used primarily in far-left progressive circles. The Associated Press explained:

The site offers two definitions for allyship: The role of a person who advocates for inclusion of a “marginalized or politicized group” in solidarity but not as a member, and the more traditional relationship of “persons, groups or nations associating and cooperating with one another for a common cause or purpose.”

This definition could apply to white people marching for the rights of black and brown Americans. Indeed, those demonstrating with Black Lives Matter during the George Floyd protests. It could also refer to straight individuals seeking to help the LGBTQ community. “Allyship” was a word that has been used frequently over the past year with the demonstrations that broke out after the murder of George Floyd.

From the AP:

It’s the first definition that took off most recently in the mid-2000s and has continued to churn. Following the summer of 2020 and the death of George Floyd, white allies — and the word allyship — proliferated as racial justice demonstrations spread. Before that, straight allies joined the causes of LGBTQ oppression, discrimination and marginalization.

John Kelly, Dictionary.com’s associate director of content and education, said:

“This year, we saw a lot of businesses and organizations very prominently, publicly, beginning efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Allyship is tied to that. In the classroom, there is a flashpoint around the term critical race theory. Allyship connects with this as well.”


Kelly stated that searches for the word “ally” rose considerably in 2020 and 2021 and was in the top 850 searches this year. The site “broadened the definition of ‘ally’ to include the more nuanced meaning,” according to the AP. The site also added “DEI” and “Critical Race Theory” this year.

The AP reported:

Among the example’s [sic] of how to use the word in a sentence cited by Merriam-Webster is this one written by Native activist Hallie Sebastian: “Poor allyship is speaking over marginalized people by taking credit and receiving recognition for arguments that the unprivileged have been making for their entire lives.”

This is not the first time the site has been political with its Word of the Year. In 2018, they chose the term “misinformation,” which might appear to be benign, but those on the right know that the left applies that label to viewpoints that contradict their own — not actual false information.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Jeff, how can you possibly know if Dictionary.com uses the left’s version of the word.”

Well, dear reader, we can easily see this in the examples they use to illustrate the definition. The site singled out Cambridge Analytica, which “harvested personal data on Facebook to create in-depth psychological profiles of individuals, which were used to influence the Brexit vote and the US election,” according to the site.

The article also said:

The subsequent spread of misinformation contained in memes can have serious, even violent consequences. Cesar A. Sayoc Jr., who was charged with sending 13 bombs in the mail to outspoken opponents of President Trump this October, drove a white van with memes plastered on the windows. His actions were stoked by the messaging common in political memes which often spread misinformation.


Pretty interesting that they did not bother to list an example of misinformation coming from the left, isn’t it?

In 2017, the Word of the Year was “complicit.”

Those who remember “Saturday Night Live’s” silly skit blaming Ivanka Trump because her father is a big meanie. The article said:

The first spike in searches for complicit was on March 12, with a 10,000% increase in daily average lookups. This was the day after Saturday Night Live aired their satirical ad featuring Scarlett Johansson playing Ivanka Trump, hawking a perfume called Complicit. This scent was marketed as “The fragrance for the woman who could stop all this, but won’t.”

The label was also applied to former EPA chief Scott Pruitt when former President Donald Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the useless Paris Climate Agreement:

Climate change has been thrust into the spotlight this year with President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. Additionally, the new EPA chief Scott Pruitt has been complicit in his refusal to acknowledge that humans play a primary role in climate change.

But despite their attempts to play to the woke crowd, choosing the word “allyship” is particularly interesting given the reality that most high-profile individuals and corporations to whom it would apply are not exactly as adamant about protecting the oppressed as it might seem. Take other woke corporations for example.

A report published earlier this year showed that out of the combined $50 billion pledged by major corporations to supposedly promote racial “equity,” only a small fraction had been allocated or spent for this purpose.


But what about supposed “allies” in government? High-profile white progressives have done a decent job of convincing the nation that they actually care about black and brown Americans. But then they push for measures like “Defund the Police,” which has gotten a disturbing number of minorities killed.

Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t genuine allies out there working to help their fellow Americans. Even during the Civil Rights Movement, plenty of white Americans marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But unfortunately, it seems today’s version of allyship is more performative than authentic. As long as the hard left dominates the conversation on race, this will always be the case.


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