November 30, 2021

Time flies when you’re having fungibles – NFT is the 2021 Collins Dictionary Word of the Year


The dictionary: welcoming new words in 2021. (Caleb Roenigk, via Flickr under CC BY 2.0)

It’s that time again where we look back at the words we’ve used most, seen most, and said “do I want to know what that means?” about most this year: Collins Dictionary has announced its word of 2021.

2020, of course, was dominated by COVID-19-related terms—the shortlist included “coronavirus” itself, “social distancing,” “self-isolate,” and “furlough,” with “lockdown” eventually, depressingly, winning out.

“We have chosen lockdown as our word of the year because it encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people who have had to restrict their daily lives in order to contain the virus”, said Collins in their statement. Previous winners include “climate strike” in 2019, “single-use” in 2018, “fake news” in 2017, and, oh God, “Brexit” in 2016.

While the pandemic is by no means over, the vocabulary surrounding it has now solidified, leaving 2021 a more open competition. The winner? “NFT” or “non-fungible token,” a term used to describe a (deep breath) “a unique digital certificate, registered in a blockchain, that is used to record ownership of an asset such as an artwork or a collectible”.

Collins recorded an 11,000% increase in the use of “non-fungible token” and its abbreviation over the last 12 months, reflecting an age in which digital ownership is increasingly dominating our culture and markets.

As ever, the 2021 shortlist serves as a mirror on humanity. Let’s take a closer look at them!


So there we go. If you want to know about the state of the world, look at its words. What will we see on the list next year? Hopefully nothing too cheugy!!*







*Yes I know the kids are probably saying something else by now. And I don’t care.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.