Smoking hot: Vape delcared Oxford’s word of the year

by | Nov 18, 2014 | News

By Travis Pereira

Featured photo courtesy of Jon Williams-

Inhale and exhale, take a few deep breaths electronically. The Oxford Dictionaries have announced their word of the year: vape.

The verb which is inextricably intertwined with the increasingly popular e-cigarette is defined as the process to: inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.

The origins of vape can be traced to its predecessors vapour or vaporize. But, it has developed into much more than a simple abbreviation.

Oxford Dictionaries note the incredible growth of the word’s use in web activity in the past year. According to their New Monitor Corpus research program (a program using automated search criteria to scan the web monthly and collect nearly 150 million current English words in use) the usage of vape more than doubled in the past year, making it thirty times more likely to come across than two years ago.

An article from TIME magazine describes this past year’s preoccupation with vape culture as a lightning rod for addressing important social issues such as health and regulation: What are the health risks with e-cigarettes? Should its use be permitted in public spaces?

This is important because the word of the Year, WOTY, is selected based on its cultural significance. The WOTY is not just a mere word, it’s indicative of noteworthy cultural developments.

Vape culture certainly meets this criteria as it’s been accompanied by a lexicon: vapoholic, vaporium, carto and e-juice.

Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment to date for vape is that it’s required the increased use of a retronym for traditional cigarettes.

Simply put, in the interest of clarity when someone uses the word cigarette there’s a increasing need to specify if tobacco or e-cigarette is being referred to.

Oxford Dictionaries didn’t let the runners-up completely go “up in smoke” by providing their short list, while TIME magazine provided the long list that the collection of editors, lexicographers and consultants originally deliberated over.


Below is a timeline of other recent words representing pop culture phenomenon, and were honoured with the title of WOTY by Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries.

It seems nonsensical, but being ordained WOTY doesn’t necessarily mean a word will  officially make it into a dictionary. Below is collection of words that showed they had “lasting potential as a word of cultural significance” and became “permanent features of the English language”.


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