Dictionary.com's Word of the Year is xenophobia, marking a global trend

And 2016's word of the year is: xenophobia. At least according to Dictionary.com, which chose the word based on global user interest and the accuracy with which it described the "cultural consciousness" these past 12 months.

Jane Soloman, a Dictionary.com lexicographer, told the Associated Press that interest in the word "xenophobia" — "a fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures or strangers" and/or "fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself," per the site — spiked in the days surrounding the United Kingdom's Brexit vote, charting a 938% increase in search traffic between June 22 and June 24, after the country left the European Union. According to Dictionary.com, the number of searches for "hate crime" also climbed after Brexit and remained high through July.

But "xenophobia" gained traction in April 2015 and sustained its popularity, according to the site. The jump corresponded to waves of violence perpetrated by South Africans against migrants from other African countries.

"It has been significant throughout the year," Soloman told the AP. "But after the EU referendum, hundreds and hundreds of users were looking up the term every hour."

Related: Brexit protesters in favor of staying in the EU

19 PHOTOS
Brexit protesters in favor of staying in the EU
See Gallery
Brexit protesters in favor of staying in the EU
Two activists with the EU flag and Union Jack painted on their faces kiss each other in front of Brandenburg Gate to protest against British exit from the European Union, in Berlin, Germany, June 19, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Anti-government demonstrators hold placards reading "No Brexit" during a protest outside the parliament in Athens, Greece June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
A protestor uses a megaphone to address a crowd as they gather outside The Houses of Parliament to demonstrate against the European Union (EU) referendum result, in London, U.K., on Saturday, June 25, 2016. The U.K. voted to quit the European Union after more than four decades in a stunning rejection of the continent's postwar political and economic order. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A protestor holds a placard which reads 'YES 2 EU' to demonstrate against the European Union (EU) referendum result, outside The Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Saturday, June 25, 2016. The U.K. voted to quit the European Union after more than four decades in a stunning rejection of the continent's postwar political and economic order. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A protestor holding a European Union (EU) flag, addresses a crowd as he demonstrates against the European Union (EU) referendum result, in London, U.K., on Saturday, June 25, 2016. The U.K. voted to quit the European Union after more than four decades in a stunning rejection of the continent's postwar political and economic order. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A protest camp of people calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence, in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 25, 2016, following the pro-Brexit result of the UK's EU referendum vote. The result of Britain's June 23 referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU) has pitted parents against children, cities against rural areas, north against south and university graduates against those with fewer qualifications. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU but Wales and large swathes of England, particularly former industrial hubs in the north with many disaffected workers, backed a Brexit. / AFP / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds a placard that reads 'So Long Great Britain' during a protest against the pro-Brexit outcome of the UK's June 23 referendum on the European Union (EU), in central London on June 25, 2016. The result of Britain's June 23 referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU) has pitted parents against children, cities against rural areas, north against south and university graduates against those with fewer qualifications. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU but Wales and large swathes of England, particularly former industrial hubs in the north with many disaffected workers, backed a Brexit. / AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against the pro-Brexit outcome of the UK's June 23 referendum on the European Union (EU), in central London on June 25, 2016. The result of Britain's June 23 referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU) has pitted parents against children, cities against rural areas, north against south and university graduates against those with fewer qualifications. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU but Wales and large swathes of England, particularly former industrial hubs in the north with many disaffected workers, backed a Brexit. / AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: A small group of young people gather to protest on Parliament Square the day after a majority of the British public voted for leaving the European Union on June 25, 2016 in London, England. The ramifications of the historic referendum yesterday that saw the United Kingdom vote to Leave the European Union are still being fully understood. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is under pressure from within his party to resign has blamed the 'Brexit' vote on 'powerlessness', 'austerity' and peoples fears over the issue of immigration. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: A small group of young people gather to protest on Parliament Square the day after a majority of the British public voted for leaving the European Union on June 25, 2016 in London, England. The ramifications of the historic referendum yesterday that saw the United Kingdom vote to Leave the European Union are still being fully understood. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is under pressure from within his party to resign has blamed the 'Brexit' vote on 'powerlessness', 'austerity' and peoples fears over the issue of immigration. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: A small group of people gather to protest on Parliament Square the day after the majority of the British public voted to leave the European Union on June 25, 2016 in London, England. The ramifications of the historic referendum yesterday that saw the United Kingdom vote to Leave the European Union are still being fully understood. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is under pressure from within his party to resign has blamed the 'Brexit' vote on 'powerlessness', 'austerity' and peoples fears over the issue of immigration. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: A small group of young people gather to protest on Parliament Square the day after a majority of the British public voted for leaving the European Union on June 25, 2016 in London, England. The ramifications of the historic referendum yesterday that saw the United Kingdom vote to Leave the European Union are still being fully understood. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is under pressure from within his party to resign has blamed the 'Brexit' vote on 'powerlessness', 'austerity' and peoples fears over the issue of immigration. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold placards during a protest against the outcome of the UK's June 23 referendum on the European Union (EU), in central London on June 25, 2016. The result of Britain's June 23 referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU) has pitted parents against children, cities against rural areas, north against south and university graduates against those with fewer qualifications. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU but Wales and large swathes of England, particularly former industrial hubs in the north with many disaffected workers, backed a Brexit. / AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: A small group of people gather to protest on Parliament Square the day after the majority of the British public voted to leave the European Union on June 25, 2016 in London, England. The ramifications of the historic referendum yesterday that saw the United Kingdom vote to Leave the European Union are still being fully understood. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is under pressure from within his party to resign has blamed the 'Brexit' vote on 'powerlessness', 'austerity' and peoples fears over the issue of immigration. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND- JUNE 24: Young protesters demonstrate outside Downing Street, following the United Kingdom's decision to leave the EU following the referendum, on June 24, 2016 in London, England. The result from the historic EU referendum has now been declared and the United Kingdom has voted to LEAVE the European Union. (Photo by Mary Turner/Getty Images)
A boat flying a large 'In' flag, campaigning to remain in the EU in the upcoming referendum sails by the British Houses of Parliament to meet a flotilla of boats from the group 'Fishing for Leave' on the river Thames in London on June 15, 2016. A Brexit flotilla of fishing boats sailed up the River Thames into London today with foghorns sounding, in a protest against EU fishing quotas by the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. / AFP / NIKLAS HALLE'N (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images)
A boat flying a large 'In' flag, campaigning to remain in the EU in the upcoming referendum sails by the British Houses of Parliament to oppose a flotilla of boats from the group 'Fishing for Leave' (L) on the river Thames in London on June 15, 2016. A Brexit flotilla of fishing boats sailed up the River Thames into London today with foghorns sounding, in a protest against EU fishing quotas by the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. / AFP / NIKLAS HALLE'N (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images)
A boat carrying supporters for a ' remain' vote in the EU referendum including Irish singer Bob Geldof (C) shout and wave at fishing boats supporting a 'leave' vote as they sail on the river Thames in central London on June 15, 2016. A Brexit flotilla of fishing boats sailed up the River Thames into London today with foghorns sounding, in a protest against EU fishing quotas by the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. / AFP / NIKLAS HALLE'N (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Soloman added that Dictionary.com saw a similar search surge after President Barack Obama used the word in a speech condemning then-presidential candidate (and now President-elect) Donald Trump. "Populism," which Obama also mentioned, exhibited an uptick in interest, too.

Dictionary.com can't provide data on what, specifically, drove the trend — whether users didn't know what "xenophobia" meant, whether they wanted to confirm its definition or check spelling. But because it defines much of what's driving the current global climate, the trend seems pretty self-explanatory. It might also help explain why Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year was "post-truth" — "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

Related: Signs from anti-Trump protests across the country

27 PHOTOS
Signs from anti-Trump protests across the country
See Gallery
Signs from anti-Trump protests across the country

A woman takes part during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump in New York City on November 9, 2016.

(KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Demonstrators gather to rally against Donald Trump as President at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common in Boston on Nov. 9, 2016.

(Photo by John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

People protest outside Trump Tower following President-elect Donald Trump's election victory in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Protesters reach Trump Tower as they march against Republican president-elect president Donald Trump in the neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, U.S., November 09, 2016.

(REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

Protestors march against Republican Donald Trump's victory in Tuesday's U.S. presidential election in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mark Makela)

People stage a protest against President-elect Donald Trump of Republican Party in front of the Trump Tower in Chicago, United States on November 9, 2016.

(Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A sign reading "Grab Her By The What Mr. President" lies on the ground as people gather to protest the election of Republican Donald Trump as the president of the United States outside of City Hall in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

Protesters walk during a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kamil Krzacznski/TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

A protester holds a sign during a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump outside Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kamil Krzacznski)

Protesters hold signs in opposition to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mary Schwalm)

Cristina Levert, who attended Berkeley High and who has a 17 year-old who attends Berkeley High, holds up a sign during a protest in response to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Berkeley, California, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage)

A protester holds a sign during a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump outside Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kamil Krzacznski)

People stage a protest against President-elect Donald Trump of Republican Party in front of the Trump Tower in Chicago, United States on November 9, 2016.

(Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Protestors shout slogans during a demonstratioin on 5th Avenue across from Trump Tower on November 9, 2016 in New York, after Donald Trump was elected as the next president of the US.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A protester holds a sign during a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump outside Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kamil Krzacznski)

Protesters demonstrate across the street from Trump Tower after the election selected Republican president-elect Donald Trump in New York, New York, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Demonstrators protest against the election of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump in front of the White House in Washington November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

A woman holds a placard at an anti-racism protest against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump outside of the U.S. Embassy in London, Britain, November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

People gather to protest the election of Republican Donald Trump as the president of the United States outside of City Hall in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

Protestors march against Republican Donald Trump's victory in Tuesday's U.S. presidential election in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mark Makela)

Demonstrators gather before start of rally against Donald Trump as President at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common in Boston on Nov. 9, 2016.

(Photo by John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Demonstrators hold signs during a rally against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump near Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Manhattan on Wednesday night and converged on Trump Tower in Midtown to protest the election of Donald J. Trump as president.  

(Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A protestor holds a placard on 5th Avenue across the street from Trump Tower on November 9, 2016, after Donald Trump won the election.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A demonstrator holds a sign and protests against Donald Trump's presidency at Washington Square Park on November 9, 2016 in New York City.

(Photo by Matthew Eisman/WireImage)

A demonstrator carries a placard in protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States, across from the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/David Becker)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

In an complementary video for Dictionary.com, Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former U.S. secretary of labor, cited the rise in fear of the "other" worldwide. The United States' efforts at becoming a melting pot have historically engendered "hostility," he said, "but we have at least striven toward tolerance and equal opportunity." What we've achieved could be undone, Reich explained:

But in recent years, as wages stagnated and economic forces began to make many Americans afraid, some politicians used that fear. They channeled it into xenophobia, fear of the "other": fear of African-Americans, fear of Mexicans, fear of Muslims. Such scapegoating is not new in the history of the world, but it is dangerous. It divides us. It invites harassment and bullying. Or worse, it turns us from tolerance and empathy to disrespect and hate.

"Dictionary.com is right to make 'xenophobia' the Word of the Year, but it is also one of the biggest threats we face," Reich continued. "It is not a word to be celebrated; it's a sentiment to be fought."

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.