Why ‘Goblin Mode’ Became the Word of 2022 & What It Means


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Last Updated on 2022-12-07 , 8:46 pm

With the year ending soon, many compilations and lists documenting the human race’s journey over the past year have begun to emerge, and Oxford’s Word of the Year is no different.

This year also marks the very first time Oxford has opened the voting up to the public over the past fortnight, where over 300,000 English speakers voted for what they felt was the word best represented this year.

According to Oxford Languages, the Word of the Year is supposed to be a word or expression that can “[reflect] the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months, one that has potential as a term of lasting cultural significance”.

As for what past Words of the Year were, 2013’s was “selfie”, 2019’s was “climate emergency”, and 2021’s was “vax”, to name a few.

But this year, the phrase chosen was “Goblin mode”.

And before you go, “What’s that?!”, here’s all you need to know about the latest Oxford Word of the Year.

And no, it won’t eat you like a goblin might.

What is “Goblin Mode”?

“Goblin mode”, a slang term which is usually accompanied by “in” or “to go” in front of it, represents “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations”.

And it seems like it’s a pretty relatable term for most of us, for it garnered 93% of the votes out of the three options chosen by Oxford’s lexicographers and given to the voters. It received 318,956 votes in total.

With the world gradually coming out of lockdown and other strict COVID-19 measures, “goblin mode” was able to encapsulate how humankind has taken a different approach to return to “normal life”, such as by rejecting the seemingly perfect and out-of-reach standards and lifestyles that some post about on their social media accounts.

Simply put, it describes how people no longer chase after “aesthetically pleasing” lifestyles and have created their own standards for what represents the new “normal”.

As for what examples there are, the Oxford Corpus has one that I’m sure we can all relate to: “Goblin mode is like when you wake up at 2 am and shuffle into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long t-shirt to make a weird snack, like melted cheese on saltines”, a pretty relatable example, as quoted in The Guardian.

History of the Term

“Goblin mode” first when viral on social media in February this year after a Twitter user used it in a mock headline regarding a scandal related to actress and model Julia Fox.

Apart from that, the term also appeared in a well-known Reddit post uploaded around the same time. In the post, the user who wrote it used the term to express the idea of someone acting like a goblin.

The term itself, however, first surfaced on Twitter back in 2009.


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What the Experts Have to Say

When announcing how this year’s Word of the Year will be selected during an event, American linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer explained, “Goblin Mode really does speak to the times… it is certainly a 2022 expression. People are looking at social norms in new ways.”

He added that the phase allows individuals the freedom “to ditch social norms and embrace new ones”.

And with regards to the results, Casper Grathwohl, the President of Oxford Languages,  commented on Oxford Languages that the term “resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point”.

“It’s a relief to acknowledge that we’re not always the idealised, curated selves that we’re encouraged to present on our Instagram and TikTok feeds. This has been demonstrated by the dramatic rise of platforms like BeReal, where users share images of their unedited selves, often capturing self-indulgent moments in goblin mode. People are embracing their inner goblin, and voters choosing ‘goblin mode’ as the Word of the Year tells us the concept is likely here to stay,” he added.

Runner-Up Words

And here are the second and third-place words that ultimately missed the mark by just a little compared to “goblin mode”.


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The first runner-up was “metaverse”, which describes “a (hypothetical) virtual reality environment in which users interact with one another’s avatars and their surroundings in an immersive way, sometimes posited as a potential extension of or replacement for the internet, World Wide Web, social media, etc.”

It was first used in 1992 when Neal Stephenson used it in his science fiction novel Snow Crash but started gaining traction slightly in 2021 after the parent company of Facebook was renamed as Meta.

However, the word gained even more popularity in 2022 as other related fields, such as NFTs and cryptocurrency, became more prominent.

Overall, the term also reflects our different lifestyle changes, such as incorporating more hybrid working arrangements and other technologies and is expected to become a more prominent term in our lives in the coming years.

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As for the third-place word, it is the hashtag “#IStandWith”.

This year, the hashtag has been mainly used in the context of activism and for people to show their support for various causes and individuals, which can then spark conversation regarding these matters.


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In particular, some of the most-used hashtags with this phrase are #IStandWithUkraine and #StandWithUkraine, both of which were used to show solidarity and support for Ukrainians after the Russian invasion.

Although the phrase began to gain substantial popularity in March of this year, the hashtag was first used on social media sometime around 2009.

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