OED research shows that ‘Toxic’ enjoyed a 45% spike in Internet searches throughout 2018. The reason? Well, while many people are interested in chemical or physical factors, others are more concerned with social issues such as masculinity, culture, and relationships.
“In 2018, toxic added many strings to its poisoned bow becoming an intoxicating descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics,” says a statement from the publishers. “It is the sheer scope of its application, as found by our research, that made toxic the stand-out choice for the Word of the Year title.”
The word’s roots pass through medieval Latin toxicum, for poison, to ancient Greek toxikon pharmakon, which was a specific poison used on arrowtips. Latin speakers imported just the part of the phrase that referred to the bow (toxon), instead of the Greek word for poison (pharmakon). The English word pharmaceutical originates in the Greek pharmakeus, referring to a person who prepared drugs or poisons.
Runners-up for Word of the Year included gaslighting, incel, techlash, gammon, big dick energy, cakeism, overtourism, and orbiting. And yes, you’re safe to look them up in the dictionary.