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According to, the word of the year 2021 is “ally”

NEW YORK – Allyship, a revamped old name, is’s Word of the Year.

The search site with 70 million monthly users took the unusual step of anointing a word it added last month, although the “alliance” first surfaced in the mid-1800s, said one of the company’s content supervisors, John Kelly.

“It might be a surprising choice for some,” he told The Associated Press ahead of Tuesday’s unveiling. “Over the past several decades the term has evolved to take on a more nuanced and specific meaning. It continues to evolve and we have seen it in several ways.”

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

The word is separate from “alliance,” which defines in a sense as “a merger of efforts or interests by individuals, families, states, or organizations.”

It is the first definition that took off most recently in the mid-2000s and has continued to evolve. After the summer of 2020 and the death of George Floyd, white allies – and the word alliance – proliferated as racial justice protests spread. Before that, heterosexual allies joined in the causes of LGBTQ oppression, discrimination and marginalization.

“This year we have seen many companies and organizations very prominently, publicly, undertaking efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Allyship is linked to that. In the classroom there is a flashpoint around the term Critical Race Theory. Allyship connects with that too, ”Kelly said.

Additionally, teachers, frontline workers and mothers juggling jobs, housework and childcare during the lockdown won allies when the pandemic took hold last year.

Without an entry for “ally,” Kelly said the site saw a sharp increase in searches for “ally” in 2020 and significant spikes in 2021. It was in the top 850 searches over thousands and thousands of words this year. . has expanded the definition of “ally” to include the more nuanced meaning. The terms “DEI” and “critical breed theory” debuted as entries on the site with “ally” this year.

What it means to be a genuine ally has taken on new meaning as the buzz around the word has increased. One of the aspects of the alliance, as it appeared, is how bad it can go.

Among the examples of use of the word in a sentence cited by Merriam-Webster is one written by Indigenous activist Hallie Sebastian: All Their Life. “

As Sheree Atcheson, Director of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Forbes, wrote, the alliance is an “ongoing process of building relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability with marginalized individuals and / or groups of people ”. It is not, she said, “self-defined – the work and effort has to be recognized by those you seek to ally with.”

Allyship should be an “opportunity to grow and learn about ourselves, while building confidence in others,” Atcheson added.

Among the earliest evidence of the word “ally,” in its original meaning of “alliance,” is the two-volume work from 1849, “The Lord of the Manor, or, the Lights and Shades of Country Life “by British novelist Thomas Hall. : “Under these considerations, it is possible that he heard of Miss Clough’s alliance with Lady Bourgoin.”

Kelly delved into the history of the alliance in the sense of social justice. While the Oxford English Dictionary traces this use of the word back to the 1970s, Kelly found a text, “The Allies of the Negro” by Albert W. Hamilton, published in 1943. It deals in detail with potential black allies. in the fight for racial equality:

“What some white liberals are starting to realize is that they had better look for black as an ally,” he wrote. “The new way of life sought by the liberal will be a sham without the racial equality that the negro seeks.” And the inclusion of the Negro in the daily work, in organizing, leading and rallying the support necessary to win a better world, can only be done on the basis of equality. “

On the other side of the alliance, Kelly said, “there is a sense of division, of polarization. It was January 6.” Allyship, he said, has become a powerful prism in terms of dichotomy in a chaotic cultural era over the past two years.

Other dictionary companies in the Word Game of the Year have focused on the pandemic and its fallout for their picks. Oxford Languages, which oversees the Oxford English Dictionary, chose “vax” and Merriam-Webster chose “vaccine”. The Collins Dictionary, based in Glasgow, Scotland, has meanwhile selected “NFT”, the digital tokens that sell for millions.

While Merriam-Webster relies solely on site search data to choose a word of the year, takes a broader approach. He scours search engines, a wide range of texts and draws on cultural influences to choose his word of the year.


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