Tech terms dominate contenders for Word of the Year 2012

GIF becomes Word of the Year, followed by Higgs Boson and Nomophobia

Some very techie words have been very popular this year.

And just to prove it, the Oxford American Dictionaries announced its Word of the Year, along with a techy-flavored list of runner-ups this week.

So, drum roll, please. The Word of Year for 2012 is....


That's right, GIF -- short for graphics interchange format -- is getting some overdue and official love. A GIF is a bitmap image format first introduced in 1987 that's still highly popular on the Web.

"The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier," Katherine Martin, head of the U.S. Dictionaries Program at Oxford University Press, said in a statement. "GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. 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."

The Dictionaries noted that the GIF has had some big moments this year.

For instance, in January the New York Public Library began allowing visitors to create GIF files of more than 40,000 digitized stereographs from its collection so they can be shared.

However, GIF wasn't the only techy or scientific word to make the Dictionaries' short list for Word of the Year contenders.

Nomophobia, which refers to anxiety caused by being without your mobile phone, made the short list. MOOC, which stands for massive open online course, gained attention when universities and colleges began offering free courses via the Internet.

The Higgs Boson, a subatomic particle considered a key to understanding the great mysteries of the universe, nearly became the Word of the Year. The Higgs Boson has gotten a lot of attention in the past few years as scientists at the Large Hadron Collider began a search for it.

Over the summer, scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced the discovery of a new particle. Early indications point to it being the Higgs Boson, which has such great mystery and scientific importance that it has been dubbed the God particle.

Other words on the runner-up list include Eurogeddon, which means the potential financial collapse of the Eurozone; Super PAC, a heavily funded political action committee aimed at influencing elections; and Superstorm, which refers to abnormally strong storms like Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the East Coast of the U.S. two weeks ago.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

See more by Sharon Gaudin on


Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon