"Woke", "cancel culture", "vaccine". These are all words and phrases I have heard and used a LOT more often than what Dictionary.com picked as its "word of the year" for 2021.
In a year where we seemed more divided and hostile toward each other than ever before, they make no bones about the fact this year's word signifies joining together for a common cause. The word? "Allyship".
What does it mean?
It's a noun, that according to Dictionary.com means "the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusing of a marginalized politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view under its leadership."
A second definition is said to be "the relationship or status of persons, groups, or nations associating and cooperating with one another for a common cause or purpose".
Why did they pick this word?
As you might have guessed, according to Dictionary.com's content director, John Kelly, it might be a controversial choice. But in an interview with the Associated Press that was picked up by Iowa's News Now, Kelly said "this year, we saw a lot of businesses and organizations very prominently, publicly, beginning efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Allyship is tied to that. In the classroom, there is a flashpoint around the term critical race theory. Allyship connects with this as well."
It's basically a made-up word
Because we're making things up a lot this year too. Kelly said the word "ally" saw a huge spike in look-ups in 2020 and 2021. According to the article, "it was in the top 850 searches out of thousands and thousands of words this year. Dictionary.com broadened the definition of "ally" to include the more nuanced meaning. The terms "DEI" and "critical race theory" made their debuts as entries on the site with "allyship" this year."
Can you use it in a sentence, please?
Yes, I can. Or at least Native activist Hallie Sebastian can; "poor allyship is speaking over marginalized people by taking credit and receiving recognition for arguments that the unprivileged have been making for their entire lives."
In case you're wondering, the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries did, in fact, go with more commonly used words, selecting "vax" and "vaccine", respectively.