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GIF Wins Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year

By Wesley Fenlon

Remember GIF? It's back. In verb form!

Oxford American Dictionaries bestows Word of the Year honors to a single member of the lexicon every year, and this year that honor belongs to GIF. But not the GIF or a GIF. If you look at GIF's current entry in the Oxford dictionary, it shows up as a noun and a modifier:

  • a lossless format for compressing image files:
  • [as modifier]:a GIF image
    • a file in GIF format.

Word of the year isn't GIF the noun but GIF the verb, defined as "to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event)." Seeing as the GIF celebrated its 25th birthday this year, Oxford Dictionaries decided to recognize its increasing use as a verb online. The head of Oxford's US dictionaries program said "The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”

Think it's weird that GIFing is now a Dictionary-recognized term? Oxford had a few worthwhile words in the running for Word of the Year, including Higgs boson and Super PAC. But things could be worse: YOLO was on the shortlist, too.