It's that time of the year when Oxford Dictionaries declares a Word of the Year, and this time, the venerable dictionary is turning the camera inward.
The winner for 2013 is "selfie," defined as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." Oxford University Press notes that its U.S. and U.K. editions declared the winner jointly, whereas in some years they each choose their own words.
"Selfie" beat out seven other shortlisted words--three of which are also tech-related--including the digital currency "bitcoin;" the Netflix habit known as "binge-watch;" the practice of "showrooming" in a store before buying online; a small furry mammal called "olinguito;" a U.K. housing penalty called "bedroom tax;" the provocative dance known as "twerk;" and a term for synthetic meat, or "schmeat."
Oxford traces the origins of the word "selfie" to a 2002 forum post, in which the poster apologizes for a blurry drunken photo, explaining that "it was a selfie."
Words don't have to be entirely new to earn consideration. They must simply rise to prominence in a given year, as with last year's selection of GIF for the U.S. edition. While the word "selfie" started popping up on sites such as Flickr--in some cases spelled "selfy"--as early as 2004, Oxford says usage finally became widespread in mainstream media sources around 2012, and was added to the online dictionary this year.
"The use of the diminutive -ie suffix is notable, as it helps to turn an essentially narcissistic enterprise into something rather more endearing," Oxford's Judy Pearsall said in a statement.
Note that the Word of the Year only applies to Oxford's online dictionaries. Winning the award doesn't guarantee entry into the print edition Oxford English Dictionary, through Oxford says "selfie" is "currently being considered for future inclusion."
Lead image: Jimmy Larsson/Flickr/Creative Commons