VAPE is named Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2014

vape, verb
Inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device

vape, noun
 An electronic cigarette or similar device; an act of inhaling and exhaling the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device

 

18 November 2014, Oxford, UK:
Today Oxford Dictionaries announces vape as its international Word of the Year 2014. The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date. Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that use of the word vape in 2014 has more than doubled compared to 2013.

Over the last five years sales of electronic cigarettes have grown from almost nothing to a multi-million $ industry, and the habit has gone mainstream. Where in the early days the use was primarily driven by smokers choosing a more healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes, more recently the industry has gained its own momentum and new audience.  A gap emerged in the lexicon, as a word was needed to describe this activity, and distinguish it from ‘smoking’. The word vape arose to fill this gap, and it has proliferated along with the habit.

Its linguistic productivity is evident in the development of a vaping lexicon. Vape pen and vape shop appear most frequently, with related coinages including e-juice (the liquid that is converted to vapour in the process of vaping an e-cigarette), carto (short for cartomizer, a disposable cartridge in which e-juice is converted into vapour), vaporium (a place where e-cigarettes may be vaped or in which vaping equipment can be purchased), and even the retronym tobacco cigarette which serves to distinguish traditional cigarettes from the electronic devices.

Judy Pearsall, Editorial Director for Oxford Dictionaries, explained the decision: ‘As vaping has gone mainstream, with celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to Barry Manilow giving it a go, and with growing public debate on the public dangers and the need for regulation , so the language usage of the word ‘vape’ and related terms in 2014 has shown a marked increase.’

The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months, but it does need to have become prominent or notable in that time. Vape was added to OxfordDictionaries.com in August 2014, although the Word of the Year selection is made irrespective of whether the candidates are already included in an Oxford dictionary. Vape is not yet in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but is currently being considered for future inclusion.

The earliest known usage of vape

E-cigarettes were not commercially available until the 21st century, having been invented in China in 2003, yet the word vape actually dates to the early 1980s. Its earliest known use is in an article, “Why do People Smoke” in New Society in 1983. The author, Rob Stepney, described a hypothetical device being explored at the time:

“an inhaler or ‘non-combustible’ cigarette, looking much like the real thing, but…delivering a metered dose of nicotine vapour. (The new habit, if it catches on, would be known as vaping.)”

Thus, it seems that vaping the word existed before vaping the phenomenon. Oxford Dictionaries research indicates that while this sense of vape was in use in the 1990s, as evidenced by posts within the UseNet bulletin board system, it wasn’t until around 2009 that it started to appear regularly in mainstream sources.

The Word of the Year shortlist

In alphabetical order, the shortlisted words for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2014 are:

bae, noun:
Used as a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner.

This endearment originated in African-American English and has been propelled into global usage through social media and lyrics in hip-hop and R&B music. The word most likely originated as a shortened form of baby or babe, but is sometimes interpreted as an acronym for ‘before anyone else’.

budtender, noun:
A person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop.

The use and sale of cannabis is illegal under US federal law, but in the late 1990s various states began to legalize medical use of the drug, and in 2012 Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use, joined in November 2014 by Alaska and Oregon. These changes in the law have led to changes in the lexicon; one new word that has arisen in US English is budtender, from bud (slang for marijuana) + tender (as in bartender). While not yet a familiar term in the general vocabulary of English, it is a widely recognized designation within the legal cannabis industry.

contactless, adjective:
Relating to or involving technologies that allow a smart card, mobile phone, etc. to contact wirelessly to an electronic reader, typically in order to make a payment.

As an increasing number of retail outlets have made contactless payment facilities available, the word itself has seen a corresponding rise in use: corpus evidence shows a peak in September 2014, when the technology was adopted across London’s transport network and Apple announced the iPay system utilizing its mobile devices. Linguistically, the word may seem to be something of a misnomer: while a contactless card doesn’t have to be inserted into a terminal, contact is still made between the card’s chip and the card reader.

indyref, noun:
The referendum on Scottish independence, held in Scotland on 18 September 2014, in which voters were asked to answer yes or no to the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’

It was inevitable that vocabulary around the subject of the Scottish independence referendum would make its mark on the lexicon. Indyref refers in an abbreviated form to the event itself, and appeared originally (and probably most commonly) as a hashtag on Twitter. It signals the increased impact that social media is having on our language, as brevity becomes paramount on platforms with message length restrictions.

normcore, noun:
A trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement.

The –core suffix is typically associated with relatively obscure musical subgenres like emocore or skacore, but with the word normcore it has broken into the realm of fashion. Although the term was in use by 2009, it wasn’t widely known until early 2014, when it shot into the popular consciousness in reference to a fashionable type of deliberate unfashionable-ness. Oxford’s corpus shows usage of normcore peaking in April 2014, but despite repeated declarations in fashion blogs and magazines that normcore the style is “over”, normcore the word still remains very much alive in the vocabulary of English.

slacktivism, noun, informal:
Actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g. signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.

Although this word has early 21st century origins, 2014 could be said to be the year of slacktivism, as there can’t be many of us who haven’t had some contact with the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, the ‘no makeup selfie’, or the hashtag #bringbackourgirls (to give 3 examples). A blend of slacker and activism, the implied criticism points to the perception that little effort is involved in raising awareness in this way and that it plays to narcissistic tendencies, but nevertheless the slacktivism concept has raised significant funds and awareness for causes this year.

Notes for Editors and Frequently Asked Questions

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is vape in an Oxford dictionary?
Vape was added to OxfordDictionaries.com in August 2014: you can find the OxfordDictionaries.com definition of vape here. Vape is not yet in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but is currently being considered for future inclusion. See the OED website for more information on how a word qualifies for inclusion in the OED.

What is the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year (WOTY)?
The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a word, or expression, that we can see has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date. Every year, candidates for Word of the Year are debated and one is eventually chosen that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance. The Word of the Year selection is made irrespective of whether the candidates are already included in an Oxford dictionary, and selection does not guarantee future inclusion. The names of people, places, or events are not suitable as Words of the Year.

Does the Word of the Year have to be a new word?
The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months but it does need to have become prominent or notable during that time.

How is the Word of the Year chosen?
The candidates for the Word of the Year are drawn initially from the Oxford Dictionaries New Monitor Corpus, a research programme which collects around 150 million words of current English in use each month, using automated search criteria to scan new web content. Sophisticated software allows us to identify new and emerging words on a daily basis and examine the shifts that occur in geography, register, and frequency of use.

Dictionary editors will also flag other notable words for consideration, and suggestions made via the OxfordWords blog and social media are also taken into account. The final Word of the Year selection team is made up of lexicographers and consultants to the dictionary team, and editorial, marketing, and publicity staff.

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in the US and the UK
Oxford Dictionaries has editorial staff based in the UK and in the US. Over the years, the UK and US dictionary teams have often chosen different Words of the Year. Each country’s vocabulary develops in different ways, according to what is happening culturally and in the news, and as such the Words of the Year can be different. Sometimes, a word captures the imagination on both sides of the Atlantic and can therefore be considered as a joint Word of the Year, as with vape in 2014.

Which words have been selected as Word of the Year in recent years?

Year Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year Oxford Dictionaries US Word of the Year
2004 chav
2005 sudoku podcast
2006 bovvered carbon-neutral
2007 carbon footprint locavore
2008 credit crunch hypermiling
2009 simples unfriend
2010 big society refudiate
2011 squeezed middle
2012 omnishambles GIF (verb)
2013 selfie
2014 vape

Is this the OED Word of the Year?
OED editors are an integral part of the Word of the Year selection team, but this Word of the Year is not exclusively chosen by the OED editors. Oxford University Press publishes many dictionaries including the OED, and the Word of the Year is selected by editorial staff from each of these dictionary teams, including editors of OxfordDictionaries.com. Find out more about the main differences between the OED and OxfordDictionaries.com, or about Oxford University Press.