OED and The Climate Connection: taking the temperature

OED and The Climate Connection: taking the temperature

The Climate Connection (#TheClimateConnection) is a new podcast series from the British Council which explores the relationship between the climate crisis and language education. In partnership with Oxford University Press, and featuring a selection of our Oxford English Dictionary editors, the podcast explores the origins of climate-related language, in both English and other languages.


In the first episode of the series, OED Editor Kate Wild examines the term climate emergency, which was Oxford Languages’ word of the year in 2019. 

Climate emergency is not a new term: the words we choose as words of the year are not necessarily completely new words, or new to our dictionaries. In fact, the earliest evidence we’ve seen so far for climate emergency is from 1975, in an article from an American newspaper in which the reporter writes about how bulldozing trees might lead to a climate emergency. Our team are constantly monitoring language developments, and in 2019 we saw this term become very high-profile, as various countries declared a state of climate emergency; and The Guardian and some other news outlets made the decision to use the term climate emergency over climate change – we’ll be discussing the differences between these two terms in a future episode.

This graph demonstrates the increase in usage of the term, as monitored by our lexicographers.
Source: Oxford Languages 2019 Word of the Year

This is how we approach adding any new word to our dictionaries. We gather information about new words from lots of different sources: language corpora, books and periodicals, websites and social media. We also get suggestions sent in by users as well. And each time we update our dictionaries we look at the new words candidates and decide which ones are most significant. 

We don’t include every new word in the OED or in any of our dictionaries as this would be impossible without unlimited time and resources.  And we tend to monitor words for a while before adding them, to see if they stay around. Many words come in and out of use all the time and have very short life spans.


Kate Wild, OED Editor

Head to the full podcast to find out more about climate related words that have entered the OED, including rewilding, greenwashing, carbon footprint, and food mile, well as those that are on our watch-list, such as anthropause and solastalgia.

You can listen and subscribe to the podcast in the following ways:

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts – just search for ‘The Climate Connection’ and subscribe, or paste the RSS feed URL into your podcast platform: https://feeds.captivate.fm/the-climate-connection

Listen on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/3vUC3xp

Listen on Apple: http://apple.co/3eEss8p

Listen on Google: https://bit.ly/3y4gAUG

The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

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