Macquarie Dictionary


Word of the Year 2008

The Committee’s choice of Word of the Year 2008 is:

toxic debt

noun debt which, although initially acquired as a legitimate business transaction, proves subsequently to be financially worthless, as the subprime loans which precipitated the GFC.

The committee, in the course of its review of the words that had been added the Macquarie Dictionary, considered the important events of 2008. The concern with the environment was an obvious issue and there were many words reflecting this, water footprint having considerable appeal. But the event of 2008 which overshadows all our lives was the GFC, itself a term now added to the lexicon. In this category toxic debt was thought to be the root cause, the lingering blight on our lives, and in addition it had, as a lexical creation, a visceral impact. It needed no explanation but said it all.


The Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year Committee comprises:

Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney
Professor Stephen Garton, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sydney
Les Murray, renowned Australian poet
Susan Butler, Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary 

The Committee would like to give honourable mention to:


noun Colloquial a non-sexual but intense friendship between two males. [bro + (ro)mance1]



noun Colloquial someone who sends an excessive number of text messages.
textaholism, noun


guerilla gardener

noun a person who plants gardens in areas controlled by councils or other organisations but neglected by them in terms of vegetation, as nature strips, roundabouts, council-maintained gardens, etc. Also, guerrilla gardener.



noun the use of international law by a country to attack or criticise another country, especially a superior military power, on moral grounds, that is, by accusing it of having violated international law. [(international) law + (war)fare]



noun Colloquial a backpacker who travels in relative luxury. [flash(y) + (back)packer]
flashpacking, noun



The People’s Choice Award for 2008 goes to:


noun Colloquial a backpacker who travels in relative luxury.  [flash(y) + (back)packer] 

flashpacking, noun


Category winners:

Business toxic debt
Colloquial bromance
Communications textaholic
Eating and Drinking guerilla dining
Ecology ecocentrism
Environment guerilla gardener
Fashion scene kid
General Interest nomophobia
Genetics divorce gene
Health baby brain
Internet lolcat
Law lawfare
Politics climate porn
Social Interest helicopter parenting
Specialist audiation
Sport chicken-wing tackle
Technology uberveillance
Tourism flashpacker

Download the pdf below to view all the entries considered for Word of the Year 2008.

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