The online dictionary website Le Robert has published the most searched words in 2023.
Article from La rédaction des Éditions Le Robert
In May 2023, a humorous misunderstanding led many to discover a new word. Pope Francis's official Twitter account sparked laughter and confusion among French-speaking users when encouraging the faithful to practice "jaculatoires." This term, actually referring to short and fervent prayers, meaning "thrown quickly" or characterized by an ardent outburst. This term evolved from "jaculari," meaning "to throw or shoot," and has spiritual connotations. The increased searches for the word "jaculatory" indicate that online dictionaries played a crucial role in helping people overcome this confusion.
The Parliament's approval of the pension reform and its subsequent endorsement by the President of the Republic in March and April 2023 triggered a notable surge in searches for the verb "promulgate." In constitutional law, this term signifies the official publication and enforcement of a law or decree.
Did your uncle once again regale the entire family with one of his questionable jokes during Christmas dinner? You likely experienced what is now referred to as a moment of "gênance," meaning a feeling of embarrassment or discomfort in an awkward situation. Although the current sense of "gêne" (embarrassment) has been established for quite some time, the term "gênance," which originally belonged to regional French, had fallen out of use until its resurgence in 2016.
Following the implosion of the Titan submarine in June 2023, the word "implosion," along with its corresponding verb "implode," experienced a surge in searches. An implosion denotes the sudden collapse of a hollow structure, wherein it crumples inward due to external pressure exceeding its internal strength. The term is derived from "explosion". While both terms describe violent destruction, an implosion involves an inward-directed movement, whereas an explosion features an outward-directed movement.
The term "nareux," employed as both a noun and an adjective, is used in the northeast of France and in Belgium to describe an individual who is particularly concerned about the cleanliness of food and utensils and is easily disgusted. Despite its regional origins, the word gained prominence and was added to Le Petit Robert in 2020. Interestingly, it stands out as the sole regionalism among the top thousand most searched words on the online dictionary in 2023, attesting to the heightened curiosity and interest surrounding it.
The Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, resulted in a significant increase in the usage of the word "kibbutz," particularly as the small villages it denotes were targeted. A "kibbutz" in Hebrew, with the plural form "kibbutzim," refers to a cooperative agricultural settlement that fosters a communal way of life.
President Emmanuel Macron first introduced the term "factious" in March 2023 during the protests against pension reform, stating, "We cannot accept either the factious or the factions." This word, employed as both a noun and an adjective, characterizes an individual involved in violent opposition to established power with the intention of causing trouble.
In August of last year, the Minister of National Education, Gabriel Attal, declared a prohibition on students wearing the "abaya" and "qamis" in public educational institutions. This announcement triggered a notable surge in searches for the term "abaya," likely unfamiliar to many until that point. The term is a French transliteration of an Arabic word signifying "cloak." It refers to a long feminine garment that covers the entire body, except for the face and hands, traditionally worn in specific Muslim cultures.
Despite lacking an apparent connection to a specific current event, the term "agnostic" managed to secure a place in the top 100. Agnosticism, the doctrine associated with this term, posits that the absolute is either inaccessible to human knowledge or dismisses metaphysical speculations as pointless. An individual who subscribes to this doctrine is described as agnostic, a term distinct from "atheist," which denotes a person who lacks belief in God.
While already ranking in the top 5 searches on the online dictionary in 2022, "wokeness" garnered even greater interest in 2023, claiming the title of the most searched word. The term refers to an American-origin movement that condemns injustices and discriminations. However, "wokeness" is commonly used pejoratively by critics of the movement to denounce perceived excesses in its methods. The term is derived from the African-American slang "woke," meaning "awake," itself originating from the verb "to wake" or "to wake up."
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