Peak emoji? How Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year 2015 rose in popularity and why it may soon be over - in charts

Lynsey Barber
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Tears of joy for emoji (and language) fans (Source: Getty)

Forget selfies and vaping, the word on your lips - or character on your phone - should be an emoji, if it's not already.

One single emoji, to be exact, has taken the world by storm this year and the face known as "tears of joy" has been crowned the word (in perhaps the loosest sense of the term) of the year by the venerable institution and language buffs Oxford Dictionaries.

Apparently there were other contenders: ad blocker, refugee, sharing economy, they, lumbersexual, Brexit, dark web, on fleek.

But, the emoji was deemed "the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015."

According to SwiftKey, the keyboard app which has become the arbiter of emoji use, "tears of joy" accounted for 20 per cent of all emoji use in the UK.

The Oxford Dictionaries Corpus crunched their own data to find usage more than tripled.

Indeed, 2015 was truly the year emojis went mainstream.

There were more people searching for them than ever before, according to Google trends data.

2015 was the year it gained the most searches, although the term did experience a bigger spike of interest in around July 2014. That's thanks to the viral launch of the emoji-only messaging app called, err, Emoji (whatever happened to that?).

They also gained more media attention than ever before.

Not everyone thinks emoji was the word of the year though. An online poll by Oxford Dictionaries asking people to choose their favourite actually pushed it down to third. The mroe than prescient "refugee" ranked second, while the ambiguous "they" topped the poll.

Used to "refer to a person of unspecified sex" according to the dictionary definition, and while it's one of the most common words in the English language, it was chosen by Oxford Dictionaries after being "thrust into the spotlight recently with reference to people with non-binary gender identities".

While emoji may be spot on the zeitgeist in 2015, it could be all down hill from here as it falls out of fashion. Just take a look at previous words of the year, which now appear seriously dated in retrospect. Bovvered? Time, perhaps, to call peak emoji.

Year Word/s
2015 "tears of joy" emoji
2014 Vape
2013 Selfie
2012 Omnishambles and Gif
2011 Squeezed middle
2010 Big society and Refudiate
2009 Simples and Unfriend
2008 Credit Crunch and Hypermiling
2007 Carbon Footprint and Locovore
2006 Bovvered and Carbon-neutral
2005 Sudoku and Podcast
2004 Chav

Where two words appear, left denotes UK and right US

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