'Selfie' named by Oxford Dictionaries as word of 2013

Pope pictured in a selfie The Pope posed for this picture with youngsters in August, with the resulting selfie going viral

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"Selfie" has been named as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.

The word has evolved from a niche social media tag into a mainstream term for a self-portrait photograph, the editors said.

Research suggested its frequency in the English language had increased by 17,000% in the last year, they added.

"Selfie" is the word of 2013, but the BBC's Lucas de Jong quizzes people on the streets of London as to the meaning of other shortlisted words

Other shortlisted words included "twerk" - a raunchy dance move performed by Miley Cyrus - and "binge-watch" - meaning watching lots of TV.

"Schmeat", meaning a form of meat synthetically produced from biological tissue, was also a contender.


The word of the year award celebrates the inventiveness of English speakers when confronted with social, political or technological change.

In 2004, the word of the year was "chav", in 2008 it was credit crunch and last year it was "omnishambles".

To qualify, a word need not have been coined within the past 12 months, but it does need to have become prominent or notable in that time.

Selfie is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website".

Its increase in use is calculated by Oxford Dictionaries using a research programme that collects around 150 million English words currently in use from around the web each month.

This software can be used to track the emergence of new words and monitor changes in geography, register, and frequency of use.

Papal power

Selfie can be traced back to 2002 when it was used in an Australian online forum, according to Oxford Dictionaries.

Sasha and Malia Obama at their father's inauguration The Obama girls take a selfie

A man posted a picture of injuries to his face sustained when he tripped over some steps. He apologised for the fact that it was out of focus, saying that it was not because he was drunk but because it was a selfie.

This year, selfie has gained momentum throughout the English-speaking world, helped by pictures such as one of the Pope with teenagers that went viral.

Oxford Dictionaries online editor Richard Holden explains the choice of "selfie" as word of the year

Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said: "Social media sites helped to popularise the term, with the hashtag #selfie appearing on the photo-sharing website Flickr as early as 2004, but usage wasn't widespread until around 2012, when selfie was being used commonly in mainstream media sources."

Selfie was added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online in August, but is not yet in the Oxford English Dictionary, although it is being considered for future use.

Other words that were shortlisted included "showrooming" - examining a product at a shop before buying it online at a lower price - and bitcoin - a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    The older generation have beggared our Country with their greed and have aided and abetted in the destruction of our planet "

    If you really believe that you are in serious need of education and should not be commenting on things about which you obviously do not have a clue.

    The older generation were brought up to save, not squander, and the planet has not been destroyed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    The comments from the old miserable people in here are a laugh. Why do something productive with your day when you can be angry online and make it patently obvious you haven't been cool since before "talkies" were invented.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    8 Minutes ago
    New words describing new activities seem fine to me. It's when grammar is mangled and 'Americanised' - now that's annoying.



    Or the conflation of "from A to B" with "between A and B" to yield "between A to B".

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    "A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of it's speakers."

    I would hate to think what these new words say about the character of it's speakers. 'Selfie' and 'binge-watch' say to me that people are growing lazier and more self-centered. I don't even want to think about what 'twerk' says about us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    New words describing new activities seem fine to me. It's when grammar is mangled and 'Americanised' - now that's annoying. E.g. someone describing so and so 'off of' somewhere, instead of so and so 'from' somewhere. Stand up Radio 1 presenters and take a bow.


  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    Possibly there is a second related definition for "selfie"?

    The act of ensuring your photograph is available to GCHQ /CIA (etc).

    Or am I being paranoid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    from "happy" to "homosexual", but not change twice despite many people currently using it with no homophobic intent.


    We were told that, in the context of homosexuality, the term "GAY" is an acronym for "Good As You".

    So, there can be no insult involved in the use of the entirely separate term, the word "gay".

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    Interesting that this story about our ever changing language comes a day after a story about the word "gay" being able to change its meaning once, from "happy" to "homosexual", but not change twice despite many people currently using it with no homophobic intent.

    It always strikes me that people define our language, create new words or change their meanings, not some Orwellian panel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    @460. The Walrus Totally agree, the English language has been bastardised, I was being sarcastic in my previous comment! Anyone who votes that up quite frankly needs help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    For the last 20 years or so it seems that those responsible for the OED have been filling it up with idiotic and transient slang terms. I'm sure it wasn't always like this.

    Don't these words fit its own definition of 'slang'?


    452.libranmeg ... There is:


    This is NOT the OED!

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    The older generation have beggared our Country with their greed and have aided and abetted in the destruction of our planet & now have the temerity to 'cock a snoot' at a younger generation with a penchant for selfies?
    The moral turpitude of some of the posters here utterly disgusts me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    Well put, Quiffy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Of course language changes"

    Indeed, and it needs to - the invention of a new object requires a new word to describe it. I think people are objecting to "new" words which are unnecessary, or silly. "Selfie" is one such. Similarly, we have reported speech for years by saying "I (or he or you) said..."

    Now it seems people say "I was like..." which does not mean the same thing at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    The English language is dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Totes, lk innit boss word yah!

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    In contrast, I'm pretty sure the BBC's campaign for word of the year is "massive" or its cousin "massively". If I offer to donate say £10 per day for the 365 days to say Children in Need for every day I do not hear the BBC use the word in a broadcast, I'm convinced it won't cost me a dime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    9 Hours ago

    "We should simply abbriviate words and remove the old words that nobody uses from the Oxford English Dictionary. #getridofoldcrap"

    a doubleplusgood idea

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    re 453 ... sit right down ... sorry ... mind one place, fingers another.

    No no, I wasnae playing with my smartphone ... honest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    I'm so pleased that the depressing coverage of the typhoon in the Philippines has been driven off the BBC's site in favour of really important news like this.

    Good to see we've finally got our priorities in order.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Obviously a slow year for new words. Omishambles last year was fantastic and still being used (unfortunatly) but selfie will only be in use as long as vain people insist on taking pictures of themselves to share. Oh, so forever then.


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