2011 is over and 2012 has already been going for a couple of weeks, so I'm a bit slow in adding these links to 2011's Words of the Year.
The American Dialect Society hosts the biggest, and probably most linguistically-informed, end of year poll for new words, and they opted for Occupy as their Word of the Year. As Ben Zimmer explains in the ADS press release, “It’s a very old word, but over the course of just a few months it took on another life
and moved in new and unexpected directions, thanks to a national and global movement.The movement itself was powered by the word”.
The event was live-tweeted throughout with the WOTY hashtag, and for me # has been the word of the year, even if it isn't really a word. So much of last year's political activism was fuelled by or commented upon as it happened by social media - the occupy movement, the summer riots in the UK, the Arab Spring - that it seems natural to have words and symbols from these fields creeping into our everyday language. It was an uncanny feeling to be sitting in the sunny south of France on holiday reading tweets about some of my favourite bits of London getting destroyed, so Twitter words loomed large in my new words of the year, even though I'm a bit late to catch onto it.
The ADS Word of the Year poll also included some less serious entries, such as assholocracy (rule by obnoxious millionaires, or for those of us in the UK, Tories), humblebrag (an expression of false humility) and amazeballs (a slang term for amazing which appears to be totally unnecessary).
Elsewhere,the ever excellent MacMillan Dictionary blog pulled together other contenders, the Evening Standard ran its own list of new or pimped up words and the OED had squeezed middle as its word of the year (despite it being two words).
And if you're looking to keep up to date with the new words of 2012 you can do no better than Kerry Maxwell's excellent Buzzwords column for MacMillan Dictionary, which is always full of proper linguistic analysis and up to date examples.