Dictionary.com has named “misinformation” its 2018 word of the year, and that’s not fake news.
The website announced its pick Monday. It defines the word as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.”
Politics and the Internet informed this year’s choice, the website said, citing the rise of fake political ads, Holocaust denial ads on Facebook and the “QAnon” conspiracy theory, which claims without evidence that President Trump is fighting a secret war against the “deep state” and a global child sex trafficking organization.
Dictionary.com linguist-in-residence Jane Solomon said that “misinformation” is distinct from the similar word “disinformation.”
“The word ‘misinformation’ is particularly interesting as its meaning is widely conflated with ‘disinformation,’ ” Solomon said in a news release. “The intent behind the two words is important to note — with misinformation, the intent is generally not to mislead; with disinformation, the intent is always to mislead.”
In a blog post, Dictionary.com listed ways individuals can fight misinformation, including fact-checking news articles and reading entire stories and not just their headlines.
Dictionary.com also named three runners-up this year: “representation,” “self-made” and “backlash,” the last of which was inspired by the angry reaction by conservatives to opposition to the nomination of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Dictionary.com isn’t the only publisher to name a word of the year. Earlier this month, Oxford Dictionaries gave the honor to “toxic,” which did double duty as a word describing chemicals and gas, as well as one describing relationships and masculinity.
Oxford also named eight runners-up, including “gaslighting” (“the action of manipulating someone by psychological means into accepting a false depiction of reality or doubting their own sanity”) and “incel” (“a member of an online community of young men who consider themselves unable to attract women sexually”).
Another runner-up was a phrase popular on Twitter but unrepeatable here, based on a male physical trait that Oxford defines as “an attitude of understated and casual confidence.”