2016 Dubbed Year of Xenophobia, Political Rhetoric Blamed

Dictionary.com declared xenophobia the word of the year, ensuring 2016 will be remembered as a year defined by the irrational fear of foreigners thanks to increasingly divisive political rhetoric nationally and aboard.

The word was among the most searched by users of the online dictionary this year, with the website crediting the campaign rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump, who led rallies in chants of “build the wall” to keep Mexicans out, proposed banning Muslims from entering the country and repeatedly likened immigrants to venomous serpents. The spike in interest in the word was also attributed to real world xenophobic-inspired events, such as Brexit, international rallies by those opposed to accepting Syrian refugees and evidence suggesting a recent rise in hate crimes in America.

“From global events to political rhetoric, xenophobia was a recurring subject of discourse in 2016,” Dictionary.com said in a statement. “Despite being chosen as the 2016 Word of the Year, xenophobia is not to be celebrated. Rather it’s a word to reflect upon deeply in light of the events of the recent past.”

The FBI reported last month an increase in overall hate crimes rose 7 percent from 2014 through last year, with Muslims seeing a 67 percent spike in such cases and Jews enduring the largest overall number of incidents. Although an official tally of hate crimes for 2016 is not yet available, the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and bias crimes, has received hundreds of reports of such incidents—including many cases of anti-immigrant harassment—since Election Day.

For his part, Trump has been quoted as saying that emboldening nativists and white nationalists—whose websites have reportedly seen a surge in traffic this year—was not his intention. But like his surname in giant letters on the side of hotels, casinos and skyscrapers, Trump and his anti-immigrant rhetoric has officially branded 2016 as the year of xenophobia.

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