‘An emblem of Australia’s political landscape’: Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year is ‘teal’

<span>Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP</span>
Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP

A colourful symbol of Australia’s shifting political landscape has become the Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year – “teal”.

And the runner-up is “truth-telling”.

“Teal embodies the year that’s been, and truth-telling is the year that’s to come – let’s hope that’s the case,” the dictionary’s committee said.

“They’re both really important concepts, central to Australian culture and politics.”

Related: Teal, spicy cough and bachelor’s handbag: the contenders for Macquarie Dictionary’s 2022 word of the year

Teal is defined as “an independent political candidate who holds generally ideologically moderate views, but who supports strong action regarding environmental and climate action policies, and the prioritising of integrity in politics, so called as many of the candidates use the colour teal in their electoral material”.

“It’s hard to go past teal as an emblem of Australia’s political landscape in 2022,” the committee said. “It’s not a brand-new word, but a brand-new sense that no one saw coming.”

While a “teal wave” failed to eventuate at the weekend’s Victorian election, teal candidates made a splash at the federal election earlier this year.

Teal, a mix of green and Liberal blue, became the favoured colour of many (mostly female) candidates after Zali Steggall used it in her campaign to unseat former prime minister Tony Abbott in Warringah.

But the community-based movement started earlier than that, in 2013, when Cathy McGowan “voices” campaign was successful in winning Indi.

Truth-telling is defined as “the act of relating the facts of a situation, exclusive of any embellishment or dilution applied as justification for past actions”.

It is a critical part of reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as the Uluru statement from the heart makes clear.

“With increased discussion of the First Nations voice to parliament, there is a sharp focus on the need for clear, unembellished truth-telling about our past,” the committee said.

“Bachelor’s handbag” (a takeaway roast chicken) was the people’s choice for 2022 and received an honourable mention, as did “goblin mode” (“an embrace of indolence and slovenliness”) and “spicy cough” (a nickname for Covid).

Related: Strollout chosen as Macquarie dictionary’s 2021 word of the year

The shortlist included “hidden homeless” (people who couch surf and do not access support services), “quiet quitting” (limiting yourself to fulfilling the basics of a job and no more), and “skin hunger” (the desire for physical contact).

The winning words were chosen from new entries included in the dictionary’s annual update, with the public able to vote for the people’s choice award.

Last year’s winner was also Covid-related. “Strollout”, the word coined to describe the slow pace of Australia’s vaccine rollout, took the prize. It also won the people’s choice. In that Covid-dominated year, honourable mentions went to words including “Delta” (remember Delta?), and “brain tickler” (the nasopharyngeal swab used in Covid tests).

In 2020, “doomscrolling” won. Defined as the “practice of continuing to read news feeds online or on social media, despite the fact that the news is predominantly negative and often upsetting”. Doomscrolling was picked in a year that began in devastating bushfires before descending into the pandemic.