Queen was chosen by children as their word of the year for 2022, according to research carried out by our department of Children’s Dictionaries & Children’s Language Data. Nearly half (46%) of surveyed children voted for Queen, making this the most popular choice from a shortlist of three words: Queen, happy and chaos. Across all the research we conducted, children’s awareness of current events and compassion for others was evident in their responses.
For over a decade our Children’s Language department have analysed the evolution of children’s language, tracking the fascinating changes in children’s vocabulary and self-expression. Since 2014, we’ve researched and announced the Children’s Word of The Year – an important means of recording the impact that global affairs have on children’s language over the years.
This year, over 5,000 children aged 6-14 across the UK took part in the research. Initially, we conducted two surveys, via parents and schools, asking over 4,000 children to suggest their word of the year. Based on the results and key themes we selected a shortlist of three words – Queen, happy and chaos – which were put to an additional 1,000 children to vote for their top choice.
This research highlights the vital role language plays for children when it comes to processing the news and discussing important topics.
Helen Freeman, Director of Oxford Children’s, said: “It comes as no surprise that Queen is Children’s Word of the Year for 2022. This not only reflects Her Majesty’s 70 years of incredible service, but over the past decade our research consistently reveals how attuned children are to the news and the impact current affairs have on their language. It’s vital we continue to invest in language development and ensure children have access to a wide range of vocabulary in order to feel equipped to process and discuss the news”.
Girls were more likely than boys to relate to the late Queen, with 52 per cent of girls choosing Queen as their number one word as opposed to 39 per cent of boys
Our research enables us to identify examples of newly emerging word senses, track their usage, and demonstrate ways in which young people embed linguistic developments in their own interactions. For instance, several participants noted use of the word queen to express enthusiastic support for another person, particularly amongst girls:
‘Because we girls are queens’ – girl, aged sixgirl, aged six
‘I always say yes queen to every woman/girl I know I want them to feel empower[e]d’– girl, aged 13
A strong theme arising from the current research is children’s capacity for empathy, particularly in looking beyond their own experiences of the year to wider events that have taken place. Equipping children with the vocabulary they need to express their feelings and discuss important issues is a vital role we can all play in their development.
Miranda McKearney OBE, founder of EmpathyLab, said: “The choice of Queen highlights how affected children were by the emotions and sense of community and connection around the Jubilee and the Queen’s death. We always encourage teachers and parents not to shy away from discussing the news and the empathy issues of the day. Schools report that making brave book choices and focusing on honest, empathetic talk really opens up a new, deeper relationship between teacher and pupil, and among children themselves”.
Despite sadness at the monarch’s death, almost half of children (48 per cent) felt hopeful and over a quarter (29 per cent) felt excited about the year ahead, although more than one in ten (14 per cent) stated they felt worried. Other findings revealed cool to be the top slang word chosen by 40 per cent of children, ahead of sick/sic (28 per cent) and slay (15 per cent).