“Populism” is the Word of the Year in Spanish

As happens every year, the Spanish Urgent Foundation chose the word of the year. The winner was “populism“. The twelve candidates were words that generated interest in the past year, not precisely because they were neologisms, but because they had a leading role in the discourse at the global level.

In 2015 and 2014, the words that received this distinction were “refugee” and “selfi” respectively. In both cases, they are words that, beyond the linguistic interest that they inspired in the students (“Selfi” is a “linguistic loan” of the “selfie” Anglicism), they were established, with a certain force, in our daily language.


So what is the definition of “populism”? The Manual Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy (1985) defines it as “political doctrine that seeks to defend the interests and aspirations of the people”. This entry does not contain any element that could imply a pejorative use of the term and yet, as luck would have it, this term has come to be used in this way. The paper version of the twenty-third edition of the Dictionary of the Spanish Language, published in October 2014, includes within the meaning of the word populism: “a political tendency that seeks to attract the popular classes.”


Undoubtedly, there is a semantic gap between both entries and they correspond to different ways of conceiving politics and reality. However, beyond the political affinity of each, the presence of the term “populism” in world discourse is undeniable.

2016 was a year in which politics clearly played a central role, which is evident in some of the other candidates for “word of the year”, such as “posverdad” or post-truth politics (relative to the circumstances in which objective facts influence less when modeling public opinion that appeals to emotion and personal belief), “abstenciocracia” (neologism that refers to the importance that abstention is acquiring in democratic systems) and “sorpasso” (‘phenomenon by which, in an election, a political group widely surpasses another ‘).