‘Polarización’ is the Spanish Word of the Year 2023

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MADRID – ‘Polarización’ (polarization), which stands for a situation of strong contradictions, has been declared the most representative word of 2023 by the Fundación del Español Urgente (FundéuRAE).

It is the eleventh time that the foundation has chosen a Word of the Year. This choice reflects not only the ubiquity of the word in the media, but also the significant evolution in its meaning.

What does ‘polarization’ mean?

First entered into the dictionary in 1884, ‘polarización’ originally referred to the poles of the Earth. However, in recent years, people use the term more and more to describe situations in which there are two strongly defined or opposing options or points of view. There is often an undertone of tension and conflict. The use of ‘polarización’ is not limited to politics; it also applies in sports, ideology, digital platform discussions, and anywhere disagreement is involved.

From physics to philosophy

The original definition of “polarización” has undergone little change since the 19th century. However, more than a century ago the term was mainly associated with physics, referring to the poles. The expansion of its use in 2023, where it has acquired more general and diverse applications, is what FundéuRAE emphasizes with this choice.

Previous Words of the Year

FundéuRAE has a history of selecting influential words. Previous winners include ‘escrache’ (2013), ‘selfi’ (2014), ‘refugiado’ (2015), ‘populismo’ (2016), ‘aporafobia’ (2017), ‘microplástico’ (2018), ’emojis’ (2019 ), ‘confinamiento’ (2020). ‘vacuna’ (2021) and ‘inteligencia artificial’ (2022). This annual selection aims to identify the word that in some way defines the public conversation and is most salient or significant in current events.

Other Candidates for 2023

Besides “polarización”, there were other strong contenders for the word of the year 2023. These included ‘ecosilencio’, ‘euríbor’, ‘FANI’, ‘fediverso’, ‘humanitario’, ‘macroincendio’, ‘seísmo’ and ‘ultrafalso’ . These words reflect a variety of topics and trends that were relevant over the past year.

Polarización in a historical context

The concept of polarization is not new. During the Cold War, the world was described as ‘bipolar’ in geostrategic terms. In this sense, people used the term ‘polarización’ for decades to describe the distance between two political positions or ideologies. Additionally, FundéuRAE notes that since 2001, with the word ‘polarizar’ and thus ‘polarización’ people referred more and more to orienting in two opposite directions, applied in various areas.

Reflection on the year 2023

The choice of ‘polarización’ as word of the year reflects the divisions and contradictions that have characterized 2023. From political tensions and social discord to debates on digital platforms. Consequently, ‘polarización’ captures the essence of a year in which differences and contradictions were central.

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