'Climate emergency' is Oxford Dictionary's word of the year

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

The word of the year is "climate emergency," according to the Oxford Dictionary. 

The term is defined as "a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it," the Oxford Dictionary reported.

Oxford chose "climate emergency" as the word of the year from a short list of words that were all related to the environment, such as climate crisis, eco-anxiety, ecocide, global heating and climate action.

Analysis of language data by Oxford shows the rapid rise of the term from relative obscurity to becoming one of the most prominent – and prominently debated – terms of 2019.

A hot air balloon with 'Climate Emergency' on it is seen in front of Parliament House on October 15, 2019, in Canberra, Australia. Protesters are demanding politicians declare a climate emergency.

"Usage of the phrase 'climate emergency' increased steeply over the course of 2019, and by September it was more than 100 times as common as it had been the previous year," Oxford said in a statement. 

In fact, usage of the term soared more than 10,700% between September 2018 and September 2019. 

Warning to the world: Over 11,000 scientists around the world declare a 'climate emergency'

In 2019, climate emergency surpassed all other types of emergency to become the most written about emergency by a huge margin, with over three times the usage frequency of health, the second-ranking word. 

Katherine Connor Martin, an editor at Oxford Dictionaries, told the New York Times, "When we were looking through the evidence, it was just clear that issues relating to the climate were running through all the different lexical items we were working with. It reflects it was a real preoccupation of the English-speaking world in 2019."

Earlier in November, in a new report, a global team of more than 11,000 scientists from over 150 countries officially declared that the world is in a "climate emergency."

“Scientists have a moral obligation to warn humanity of any great threat,” said Thomas Newsome of the University of Sydney, one of the report's authors, in a statement. “From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency.”  

Countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, France and Argentina have all declared climate emergencies, the Weather Channel reported. 

And, as the Guardian explained, even though “climate emergency” is two words, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s resident linguist explained in 2017 that single words can consist of two parts.

The word of the year citation is meant to capture the "preoccupations of the passing year, and have a lasting potential as a term of cultural significance," Oxford said. 

According to Oxford, recent words of the year have included vape, toxic, youthquake and post-truth.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Climate emergency' is Oxford Dictionary's word of the year