Exploring the Evolution of Spanish: Polarization, the Word of the Year


At Web Spanish, your go-to online school for Spanish classes, we are passionate about keeping you informed on the latest and most significant developments in the Spanish language. The Spanish language, like any other, is in constant flux, adapting and evolving to mirror the societal changes and trends around us. In a recent and intriguing update, FundéuRAE has announced “polarización” (polarization) as the most defining word of 2023.

The Significance of “Polarización”

The term “polarización” has been chosen for its “gran presencia en los medios de comunicación y la evolución del significado que ha experimentado” – its significant presence in the media and the evolution of its meaning. First appearing in the dictionary in 1884, its original definition pertained to the poles of the Earth. However, in recent years, it’s increasingly used to describe situations with two distinctly defined or distanced options or activities, often implying tension and confrontation.

This evolution in usage is particularly noteworthy. It extends beyond politics, touching various spheres like sports, ideology, digital platform debates, and any scenario where disagreement is common.

From Geographical Poles to Societal Divides

The journey of “polarización” from a term with physical connotations related to the Earth’s poles to a descriptor of societal divides underscores the dynamic nature of language. It reflects how words can adapt and take on new meanings to capture the essence of the times. This mirrors the shift from a bipolar world in the Cold War era to the current societal polarization, marking the distance between two opposing stances.

The Word of the Year Tradition

FundéuRAE’s initiative to select a word of the year aims to identify a term that encapsulates the public conversation, capturing the most notable or significant word that has flooded our reality in the past year. Previous selections like “selfi” (2014), “aporafobia” (2017), and “vacuna” (2021) highlight the diverse range of topics that can dominate public discourse.

The Role of Language in Reflecting Society

The selection of “polarización” as the word of the year is a testament to the power of language in reflecting our society’s complexities. As with the addition of words like “no binario” and “sexting” in the Royal Spanish Academy’s latest edition, these changes in language usage demonstrate an awareness and acknowledgment of evolving social and cultural dynamics.

At Web Spanish, we encourage our students to delve into these linguistic developments. Understanding such evolutions helps in grasping the nuanced ways in which the Spanish language mirrors our world’s changing face. Let’s continue to explore and embrace these linguistic shifts together, enriching our understanding of this vibrant language.

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