IT kind of sums up the past 12 months when “justice”, “misinformation” and “toxic” emerge as 2018’s words of the year.

Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster named justice as its top word after it saw a 74% jump in look-ups compared with 2017. Explaining its choice, the company said the concept of justice was central to many debates in the past year and covered racial justice, social justice, criminal justice and economic justice.

It added: “In any conversation about these topics, the question of just what exactly we mean when we use the term justice is relevant and part of the discussion.”

It was among the most consulted words on the website throughout the year and saw spikes in search volume in the wake of numerous news stories.

According to the dictionary, justice is defined as: “The maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”

It is mildly worrying that so many folk were unclear as to the meaning of the word, but hey ho. At least they had the sense to check.

Meanwhile Oxford Dictionaries have crowned “toxic” as their winning word and chose “misinformation”.

Toxic saw a 45% rise in the number of times the term was searched on, perhaps unsurprising in the year of the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury, increasingly venomous relations between Britain and the EU and the small matter of a dangerously polluted world in which climate change is wreaking havoc.

Oxford editor Katherine Martin said that toxic is a word that touches “on almost all the preoccupations we could think of that have characterised this year … literally and metaphorically”. Quite.

As well as the word’s literal use meaning poisonous, as in “toxic air,” “toxic chemicals” and “toxic waste”, it is also being used to describe workplaces, cultures, relationships and masculinity as driven by the #MeToo movement.

Or am I misinformed? Jane Solomon, a linguist-in-residence at, said their choice “misinformation” as their word of the year aimed to highlight the idea of the intent to mislead, and also how misinformation can be spread unwittingly.

She said: “Misinformation has been around for a long time, but over the last decade or so the rise of social media has really, really changed how information is shared. We believe that understanding the concept of misinformation is vital to identifying misinformation as we encounter it in the wild, and that could ultimately help curb its impact.”

Solomon added that “our relationship with truth is something that came up again and again” when studying look-ups on the site, which has 90 million monthly users. Other entries added in 2018 for “filter bubble”, “fake news”, “post-fact” and “post-truth”.

It seems that in a toxic world blighted by misinformation many are in search of truth and justice. Here’s to a happier new year.