Human existence seems to be top of mind this year. At least, that’s what Dictionary.com discovered when picking the word of the year for 2019. Existential is that word.
The word dates to 1685, deriving from Late Latin’s “existentialis.” Dictionary.com defines existential as “of or relating to existence” and “of, relating to, or characteristic of philosophical existentialism; concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual’s freely made choices.”
How did Dictionary.com come up with the choice? by crunching lookup and search data. It turns out the word was top of mind during several moments this year including:
- After both presidential contender Bernie Sanders and 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg characterized climate change as an “existential,”
- When former Vice President Joe Biden painted President Donald Trump as an “existential threat” to decency
- The Hong Kong protests, the Notre Dame fire, and Big Tech’s privacy and fake news problems.
- Even kids were shown the meaning of the word when Forky was looking for his purpose in “Toy Story 4.”
The site notes that “existential” was used beginning in January and consistently all year. Senior research editor John Kelly Forky’s journey shows us that we have the “opportunity to turn existential threats into existential choices.”