The word ‘Allyship’ has been announced as Dictionary.com’s 2021 word of the year - a term that surprisingly only was added to the platform last month.
It just goes to show you it’s never too late to leave a lasting impact.
In a year that could only be described as a whirlwind filled to the brim with polarizing topics, the titleholder highlights what mattered most to people over the course of the last 365 days.
Evolved from the word ‘alliance’, the site provides two definitions for ‘allyship’: the role of a person who “advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society” but is not a member of that group, and acts “in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership” and the relationship of “persons, groups or nations associating and cooperating with one another for a common cause or purpose.”
Screenshot of the definition of ‘allyship’ on Dictionary.comDictionary.com
Such anointment as word of the year truly signifies the impact of what it entails to be an authentic, non-performative "ally."
Although Associate Director of Content & Education, John Kelly, noted that the word first surfaced in the mid-1800s, it has since taken on fresh significance as buzz around the word grows louder.
“It might be a surprising choice for some,” Kelly told media. “In the past few decades, the term has evolved to take on a more nuanced and specific meaning. It is continuing to evolve and we saw that in many ways.”
While it seems as though this would have been a more apt choice in 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the rising Black Lives Matter movement, Kelly explained that 2021 sought just as urgent of circumstances.
“This year, we saw a lot of businesses and organizations very prominently, publicly, beginning efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Allyship is tied to that. In the classroom, there is a flashpoint around the term ‘critical race theory’. Allyship connects with this as well,” Kelly said.
Particularly during the pandemic, allyship extends to teachers, frontline workers and more who gained allies over the last year.
Despite not having a proper entry for “allyship”, Kelly noted that the site saw a tremendous rise in searches for “ally” in 2020 and even more so in 2021. In fact, it was in the top 850 searches out of thousands and thousands of words this year.