(CNN)Wordsmiths of the world, rejoice. Or lament.
Dictionary.com has named “xenophobia” its 2016 Word of the Year. Its definition: “Fear or hatred of foreigners.”
“This particular year saw fear rising to the surface of cultural discourse,” the online dictionary said in a statement.
The single most dramatic spike in searches for “xenophobia” came on June 24 — one day after the UK’s Brexit referendum returned a shocking “yes” vote. That day, searches surged 938%.
Another spike in searches came after President Obama used the word in a speech on June 29 in relation to the “populist” rhetoric of then-US Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Dictionary.com offers two definitions for xenophobia: “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers,” and “fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself.”
During his successful campaign for the presidency, Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and the construction of a border wall to crack down on alleged illegal immigration from Mexico.
The adjective “xenophobic” entered Australian political folklore in 1997 when the co-founder of the right-wing One Nation party, Pauline Hanson, was asked to answer the question on the Australian version of “60 Minutes.”
“Are you xenophobic?” the reporter asked. After a brief pause, Hanson said, “please explain.”
In 2015, Dictionary.com crowned “identity” its winning word, citing an increased focus on personal themes of racial and gender identities, and sexual orientation, among the general populace.
In 2014, the site selected “exposure” — a nod to the spread of Ebola in West Africa and the march of ISIS in the Middle East and online, which dominated news headlines.
This year’s choice of xenophobia may indicate something different. Rather than an upswing in social dialogue or the breadth and impact of news, xenophobia — a distillation of a worldwide mood — may represent something deeper and more disquieting.