What is the common link among fire rage across the Amazon, Brexit, impeachment of Donald Trump and Hong Kong protests? People searched the word "existential" after every key events in 2019, according to Dictionary.com. Thus, Dictionary.com announced "existential" as the Word of the Year for 2019.
From climate change to gun violence, "existential" as a word and theme, was prominent in discussions of topics that dominated 2019.
The word "existential" came from Late Latin existentialis/exsistentialis in the late 1600s. Dictionary.com defines the word "existential" in two ways. One is “of or relating to existence."
"Existential is often used when the fact of someone or something’s being—its very existence—is at stake," mentioned Dictionary.com.
The second meaning of "existential" is “concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual’s freely made choices." It was first recorded in the early 1900s and often related to existential crisis.
Search for "existential" spiked throughout 2019, especially after US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said climate change “an existential crisis" The search for existential up over 179% after Sanders' comment. Another spike occurred after the speech of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.
People extensively searched the word "existential" after massive wildfire scorched Amazon in August. The search volume for existential was higher than average throughout summer and fall 2019.
"Existential" witnessed another round of large spike when former Vice President Joe Biden said about President Donald Trump: “I believe that the president is literally an existential threat to America."
Climate change has been one of the top news stories in 2019 and so are the words related to it. The search for "Polar vortex" soared over 6,183% on January 31, said Dictionary.com.
Other words that have been in the searches are related to "gun violence".
Searches for "manifesto", "screed", "white supremacy", and "stochastic terrorism" jumped after mass shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15.
From business and education to science and sports, the word "existential" defined the 2019. Here are some of the examples:
"There is a very serious crisis in the UK which … isn’t linked to the text of Brexit and even less to the Irish backstop. It’s a much deeper crisis. An existential crisis." — Michel Barnier, quoted in the Guardian, May 29
"… at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight." — Mark Zuckerberg, quoted in Digital Trends, October 1.
Notre Dame fire
"Like many who watched, I felt the existential pang of history being eviscerated before my eyes." — Stuart Richardson, USA Today, April 16