Mind & Body

This Is the Most Annoying Word In the English Language


How does that word make you feel? As words go, it's not a particularly beloved one. For nine years straight, "whatever" has been voted the most annoying word in the English language. Sorry, bratty teenagers.

Related Video: 10 Famous Last Words

Seriously, Whatever.

One of the most exciting days for American English comes but only once a year: the day when the New Marist Institute of Public Opinion releases its poll results for the year's most annoying words or phrases. Demonstrating commendable staying power, the word "whatever" ranked as the most annoying word or phrase used in casual conversation. And this "Clueless"–esque word held its less-than-coveted number-one spot for nine years, from 2008 to 2017. (There hasn't yet been a poll released for the most annoying word since then, but we're holding out hope.)

In 2017 as compared to 2016, "whatever" was beginning to gain a bit more acceptability. The poll found that only 28 percent of respondents under the age of 45 voted for "whatever," while it was the choice of 40 percent of respondents over 45. "It has been more than 20 years since 'whatever' first gained infamy in the movie 'Clueless,'" Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, the Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement. "While the word irks older Americans, those who are younger might not find 'whatever' to be so annoying."

Annoying? That's Fake News

But what is it about "whatever" that really drives Americans bananas? Since 38 percent of the 1,005 people polled were most annoyed by the word "whatever," it's worth exploring. The Oxford Dictionary includes this informal definition: "Said as a response indicating a reluctance to discuss something, often implying indifference." It's the indifference bit that really grinds peoples' gears.

Here are all the words and phrases that ranked for really getting a rise out of people in 2017:

  • Whatever: 33%
  • Fake news: 23%
  • No offense, but: 20%
  • Literally: 11%
  • You know what I mean: 10%

For those keeping score at home, here were the words that annoyed the heck out of Americans in 2016:

  • Whatever: 38%
  • No offense, but: 20%
  • You know, right?: 14%
  • I can't even: 14%
  • Huge: 8%
  • Unsure: 5%

Get stories like this one in your inbox or your headphones: sign up for our daily email and subscribe to the Curiosity Daily podcast.

Go deeper with "Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning" by Benjamin K. Bergen. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto January 7, 2017

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.