Cambridge Dictionary crowns 'perseverance’ as 2021 word of the year

Cambridge Dictionary crowns 'perseverance’ as 2021 word of the year

Cambridge Dictionary has announced "perseverance" as its Word of the Year 2021, after a spike of searches as Nasa’s Perseverance Rover made its final descent to Mars in February. 

The team described it as “a word which perfectly captures the undaunted will of people across the world to never give up, despite the many challenges of 2021—and, of course, global interest in the Nasa mission to Mars”. 

Perseverance is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “continued effort to do or achieve something, even when this is difficult or takes a long time” and has been looked up globally more than 243,000 times during 2021. 

Prior to 2021, the word did not appear “noticeably” in look-ups on the Cambridge Dictionary website, according to the team. However, a spike of 30,487 searches for the word occurred from 19th to 25th February 2021, after the craft made its descent on 18th February. 

“It made sense that look-ups of ‘perseverance’ spiked at this time,” said Wendalyn Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary publishing manager. “Cambridge Dictionary is the top website in the world for learners of English, and perseverance is not a common word for students of English to have in their vocabulary. We often see spikes in look-ups of words associated with current events when those words are less familiar.” 

In addition to this spike, during the following months, the word has continued to be looked up more frequently on the Cambridge Dictionary site than ever before.

Nichols added: “Just as it takes perseverance to land a rover on Mars, it takes perseverance to face the challenges and disruption to our lives from Covid-19, climate disasters, political instability and conflict. We appreciated that connection, and we think Cambridge Dictionary users do, too.” 

In January 2021, searches for "insurrection", "impeachment", "inauguration" and "acquit" all spiked on Cambridge Dictionary, as the world closely followed the US presidential election. 

The dictionary team, which forms part of Cambridge University Press, has also created a new list of words about being determined for English learners on the Cambridge Dictionary +Plus website.

For more information on the Word of the Year 2021, visit the dictionary website.