Word: post-truth

Pronunciation: pohst-TROOTH

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


It’s finally the end of 2016, and while I usually take this final week to write about an uplifting word to close the year’s Word of the Week segment, this year I decided to shake things up by featuring Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year. After a long and tumultuous year in which emotions have run high and too much fake news has been mixed in with real news, it’s really no surprise that a relevant vocabulary word was chosen to sum it all up. Regardless of which side of history you find yourself on, one thing is certain: we’ve already long been living in a “post-truth” world!

“Post-truth” is a political term that refers to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to personal belief and emotion. The word comprises the prefix “post” (in the sense “belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant”) and the noun “truth” (“the state of being true”). The term in its current definition was likely coined in 1992 by the Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich, having first appeared in an essay he wrote for The Nation magazine, while the contemporary phrase “post-truth politics” surfaced in 2010 in a Grist magazine column by blogger David Roberts.

Simply put, “post-truth” politics is a political culture in which facts are not as important as feelings. While some people and media outlets contest and falsify truth, “post-truth” refers to a phenomenon in which truth is rendered of secondary importance to appeals to emotion. The term is considered contemporary and is largely associated with social media, though the concept likely dates much farther back than the Internet; George Orwell, for example, incorporated the idea of a “post-truth” state in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. If the characters in your stories tend to let truth take a back seat to emotion, you may already be creating a “post-truth” world of your own!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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