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The heart emoji is 2014's most popular word

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The most popular word of 2014 wasn’t actually a word, according to a new survey of global English usage, it was an emoji: the ♥ emoji in fact. "The Heart and Love emoji, emoticon, and variations thereof appear billions of times a day around the world — across languages and cultures," claims Global Language Monitor (GLM) in their 2014 report on English-language word usage, adding that it is "the first time an ideograph has captured [the] Word of the Year honors."

The most popular heart emoji on Twitter has been used nearly 500,000,000 times

Although the above claim — that the heart emoji and its cognates appeared "billions of times a day" — is most likely a big exaggeration, it’s credible that an emoji overtook any single word as the most popular lexical item in 2014, and even more possible that that emoji was a heart. A ranking of the top 100 most commonly used emojis on Twitter by FiveThirtyEight in June (based on this fantastic real-time emoji tracker built by Matthew Rothenberg) found that Hearts has been used more than 342 million times since the site was launched, with variations including Heart, Heart Eyes, Kissing Heart, and Two Hearts all making it into the top 20. And this is without even counting Beating Heart, Sparkling Heart, Revolving Hearts, and Green Hearts. Combine this with use in other social networks and mentions in the media (after all, this has been the year of emoji versions of Moby Dick, Game of Thrones, and "Drunk in Love"), and, yep, 2014 might well have been the year we said ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to words.

GLM doesn’t publish any details about its methodology (and has yet to respond to our enquires) but claims to analyze "the Internet, blogosphere, the top 275,000 print and electronic global media (not limited to the English-language-based media), as well as new social media sources as they emerge" to arrive at its figures. It also says that it applies a number of qualifying criteria to its lists, including specifications that the word must have at least 25,000 citations and not be "limited to a particular profession or social group or geography." The resulting top tens read like most other zeitgeist, year-in-review surveys: a mixture of news stories, scares, disasters, and slang. Overall it's probably a good thing then that hearts came out on top.

Top words of 2014:

  1. The ♥ emoji
  2. Hashtag
  3. Vape
  4. Blood Moon
  5. Nano
  6. Photobomb
  7. Caliphate
  8. (White) privilege
  9. Bae
  10. Bashtag

Top nouns and names of 2014:

  1. Ebola
  2. Pope Francis
  3. World War One
  4. Médecins Sans Frontières
  5. MH370
  6. World Cup
  7. Ice Bucket Challenge
  8. Crimea
  9. The Mid-terms
  10. NSA

Top phrases of 2014:

  1. Hands Up, Don’t Shoot
  2. Cosmic Inflation
  3. Global Warming
  4. Climate Change
  5. War on Women
  6. All Time High
  7. Rogue nukes
  8. Near-Earth Asteroid
  9. Big Data
  10. Polar Vector