Cambridge Dictionary: Wordle frustration inspires word of the year


The endless permutations of five-letter words took over the internet in 2022 as the online puzzle game Wordle dominated social media feeds, pop culture, and even determined word of the year in the Cambridge Dictionary.

“Homer” was searched more than 79,000 times on the Cambridge Dictionary website this year, with 65,401 searches in one day – May 5.

The reason? That’s when the Wordle answer came out, which sparked frustration among non-US users unfamiliar with the term when they tried to win by guessing the word within the game’s six-guess limit.

“Homer” is a colloquial American English term for a home run in baseball, the Cambridge Dictionary said in a press release Wednesday. Others may know it as the name of a Simpsons character or an ancient Greek poet.

“Many players outside the US had not heard this word before,” the press release added. “Huge numbers of players expressed their frustration and annoyance on social media, but many also turned to the Cambridge Dictionary to find out more.”

“Still mad about ‘Homer’,” one person tweeted on May 31. “It’s been weeks now. Furious.”

There were several other American English words that appeared on Wordle and later peaked in searches on the Cambridge Dictionary website – described by the dictionary’s press release as the “Wordle Effect”.

The American spelling of “humour” drove more traffic, with nearly 30,000 searches the day it was the Wordle answer, while more unusual words like “caulk” and “bayou” were also searched thousands of times.

Cambridge Dictionary’s choice of word of the year illustrates the popularity of a simple game that could be shared online when global pandemic restrictions restricted social interactions for millions.

“Perhaps it is no wonder that people enjoy the focus and mental challenge of a simple word game that can be a shared experience with family and friends, whether they are physically together or not, in a time of volatility and a protracted recovery from a global pandemic,” said Wendalyn Nichols of the Cambridge Dictionary in the release.

“Even the complaints about the choice of words seem to be part of the fun.”

Following Wordle’s viral popularity, it was bought by the New York Times and delivered its best-ever quarter of net subscriber additions to its games sections, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said in the press release in May.

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