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Goblin Mode is the new Oxford word of the year, but what does it mean?

Goblin Mode. We've all been guilty of it this year.

By Nick Reilly

A messy bedroom, typical of goblin mode (Picture: Alamy)

Goblin Mode has been chosen as Oxford’s word of the year for 2022.

The prestigious ranking is always chosen at the end of the year, but 2022’s entry marks the first time it has been chosen by public vote. So what exactly does it mean?

Those hoping for humans undergoing a Tolkien-esque transformation will be disappointed. Instead, the term refers to those displaying behaviour that is typically associated with the mythical beasts.

An official listing says it refers to “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations”. After being narrowed down by lexicographers from Oxford University Press (OUP), more than 340,000 English speakers across the globe had the chance to cast their vote.

Goblin Mode was closely followed by Metaverse, reflecting our ongoing fascination with virtual realities, as well as #IStandWith – a hashtag typically used when fans of a person unite behind them in times of crisis or turmoil.

In winning the vote, Goblin Mode scored a landslide victory by being selected by 318,956 people, which makes up a staggering 93% of the overall vote.

In a statement obtained by The Guardian, the president of Oxford Languages, Casper Grathwohl, said: “Given the year we’ve just experienced, ‘goblin mode’ resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point.

“It’s a relief to acknowledge that we’re not always the idealised, curated selves that we’re encouraged to present on our Instagram and TikTok feeds. This has been demonstrated by the dramatic rise of platforms like BeReal where users share images of their unedited selves, often capturing self-indulgent moments in goblin mode.”

The term was first noticed on Twitter in 2009, but went viral on social media earlier this year after it emerged in a mocked-up headline which was tweeted.

Noting the term’s rise as Covid restrictions began to ease, the OUP said: ” “Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media.”

Previous Oxford words of the year include “vax” (2021),”unprecendented” (2020) and “climate emergency” (2019).