Dictionary.com recently declared that its word of the year is “allyship,” which they define as: “the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership.”
It’s worth noting that the word was only added to dictionary.com last month, so its elevation to word-of-the-year status in such a short period of time points to a move based on virtue, not merit. “Allyship” has been a prominent word among left-wing activists, especially in LGBTQ+ and racial justice movements.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Dictionary.com explained that it chose allyship as its word of the year in order to reflect a myriad of topical issues, from racial justice to critical race theory, and even chose to take a swipe at Donald Trump by declaring that the word acts as a “powerful prism through which to view defining acts of 2021” such as the January 6 Capitol attack.
This isn’t the first time Dictionary.com has used its platform to demonize Donald Trump and republicans at large. Back in 2018, the pop culture magazine Popsugar compiled a helpful list of “17 Times Dictionary.com Burned Donald Trump (and His Administration)” and there have been countless other examples since then. Since when has it been the job of dictionary websites to have an opinion on politics?
Dictionary.com is not the only dictionary website re-defining and enhancing language in an attempt to sway the political and cultural tide. In the wake of the George Floyd protests back in 2020, Merriam-Webster revised its definition of the word “racism” simply because a 22-year-old social activist emailed and asked them to. According to an editor for Merriam-Webster, the definition was updated to include mention of “systemic oppression” in an attempt to “more [clearly bring] the idea of an asymmetrical power structure into the language of this definition.”
Purveyors of language redefining words to influence a political narrative and promote a particular point of view is a dangerous precedent to set. Honest debate can only happen when the playing field is level and all players define the terms in the same way. With big tech and leftist institutions changing the rules on a whim, it’s quickly becoming impossible to argue in good faith anymore.