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Oxford University Press Announces GIF as 2012 Word of the Year

NEW YORK, Nov. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Oxford American Dictionaries announced today that it chose the verb GIF as its 2012 Word of the Year. According to Oxford Dictionaries Online GIF is defined as:

  • GIF, verb; to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event).

"The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier," notes Katherine Martin, Head of the US Dictionaries Program at Oxford University Press USA.  "GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace."

Indeed, GIFing has had an amazing year in 2012.  In January the New York Public Library launched stereogranimator allowing visitors to create GIFs of 40,000+ digitized stereographs from its collection and share them.  Then in March Tumblr hit 20 billion blog posts.  July saw the 20th anniversary of the first GIF posted on the World Wide Web, a photograph of the band "Les Horribles Cernettes".  In August GIFing was perfect medium for sharing scenes from the Summer Olympics in London, especially this coverage of the vault from The Atlantic.  Most recently many media outlets were live-GIFing the 2012 presidential  debates.

GIF beat out a number of other contenders for Word of the Year (WOTY) this year.  A shortlist of other candidates under consideration included:

  1. Eurogeddon: the potential financial collapse of the Eurozone, envisaged as having catastrophic implications for the region's economic stability [from euro + (arma)geddon]
  2. Super PAC: a type of independent political action committee which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates
  3. Superstorm: an unusually large and destructive storm
  4. Nomophobia: anxiety caused by being without one's mobile phone
    [from no and mo(bile) + phobia]
  5. Higgs boson: a subatomic particle whose existence is predicted by the theory that unified the weak and electromagnetic interactions
  6. YOLO: you only live once; typically used as rationale or endorsement for impulsive or irresponsible behavior
  7. MOOC: massive open online course; a university course offered free of charge via the internet

To speak with a dictionary editor at Oxford American Dictionaries contact:
Purdy/Director of Publicity
212.726.6032 / [email protected]

About the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year (WOTY)
Among their other activities, lexicographers at Oxford University Press track how the vocabulary of the English language is changing from year to year. Every year, a 'Word of the Year' is debated and chosen to reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in the US and the UK
In most years, 2012 included, the UK and US dictionary teams choose different Words of the Year. Each country's vocabulary develops in different ways, according to what is happening both culturally and in the news, and as such the Words of the Year are usually different. The 2012 UK WOTY is "omnishambles". For more information on the UK WOTY and shortlist, please contact:

Nicola Burton | [email protected] | 01865 353911 | 07921 882185

Who chooses the Word of the Year? 
The selection team is made up of lexicographers and consultants to the dictionary team, along with editorial, marketing, and publicity staff.

When will GIF make its debut in Oxford's dictionaries? 
GIF is currently recognized and defined by Oxford Dictionaries Online as a noun. If the verbal use of Gif gains sufficient currency, it will be considered for inclusion in the future.  For more information regarding how/when new or shortlisted words might make it into the dictionary check out: how we decide whether a new word should be included in an Oxford Dictionary.

Past WOTYs include:
















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About Oxford Dictionaries
We publish a wide range of dictionaries in many languages and for many markets:

About Oxford
University Press
Oxford University Press, a department of the University of Oxford, furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. The world's largest and most international university press, Oxford University Press currently publishes more than 6,000 new publications per year, has offices in around fifty countries, and employs some 5,000 people worldwide. It has become familiar to millions through a diverse publishing program that includes scholarly works in all academic disciplines, bibles, music, school and college textbooks, children's books, materials for teaching English as a foreign language, business books, dictionaries and reference books, and journals. For more information about Oxford University Press visit

Visit the Oxford Dictionaries blog for more information on the WOTY 2012

SOURCE Oxford University Press

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