Parabank – the word of the year 2012

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PARABANK – the word of the year 2012

The jury composed of prof. Jerzy Bralczyk, prof. Andrzej Markowski and prof. Walery Pisarek chose for the second time the word of the year in the plebiscite organised by the Institute of Polish Language.

In 2012 the awarded word is PARABANK (lit. a shadow banking system or a part of it, an institution similar to a bank).

Other honoured words were (in alphabetical order): KRYZYS (crisis), LEMING (lemming), MINISTRA (ministress; a neologism for woman-minister), TROTYL (TNT) and ZAMACH (assassination attempt).

The jury chose from among proposals submitted by students of the University of Warsaw and other participants of the internet plebiscite announced on University websites, as well as from among statistically most popular words appearing in four daily newspapers. These words were published every day in the Internet (,

This word is new in a sense, yet it triggered (or strengthened) a discussion on the freedom of self-defining, on the influence on the language, and on different aspects of equality of rights – an important discussion not only for linguists. (Jerzy Bralczyk)

The awarded word, through the contrast of the particle para- ‘similar, fake’ with the word bank, which should be associated with security and confidence, says a lot about today’s crisis of social trust. Other honoured words were either new, had new meaning or were significant for (real or alleged) events which focused the public discourse.

PARABANK (kind of a bank)

The main villain of all ‘parabanks’ in Poland last year was Amber-Gold – a company, whose name could, by the way, lay claim to the title “proper name 2012”. The case of Amber Gold was not only a great news, but a real scandal with painful, long-term, economical, social and political consequences. PARABANK is almost a bank. By analogy, press reports on traces of explosives on the wreckage of the plane could be called reports on para-TNT, and the would-be assassin from Krakow could be called a para-assassin. Such words with para-meaning were brought to us by the past year.

(Walery Pisarek)

A word, until now absent in our language, yet quite important, as pointing to different “para-“ and with influence on the overall “public trust”. (Jerzy Bralczyk)

Sounds disturbing, as for common people this ‘para’ stands for “a kind-of-ness”, so something untrue, a scam. It is associated with a well-known institution, and a notorious cheat, which intensifies the negative opinion. For common people this word is a mysterious one, a smoke screen to hide something (probably pretty nasty). The scandal caused it to be associated with bad things. I wonder if this is going to be transferred on “paramedicines”…

(Andrzej Markowski)


The word used necessarily and unnecessarily as a justification when something cannot be done. One needs to stop the investments, lower the wages. A catch-all justifying not so much the objective obstacles, but rather one’s own negligence. Trendy not only this year, which is both its strength and weakness in the plebiscite. (Andrzej Markowski)

LEMING (lemming)

This word has introduced to the language a name of an animal, until now rather unnoticed. Its metaphorical use, together with its acceptance from those against whom it was aimed, gave another example of how many aspects a “battle of words” can have. (Jerzy Bralczyk)

A noun until last year rather unknown to the people at large, since who cares for an alleged insanity of minor Scandinavian rodents. Its new meaning (dating last year, I suppose) was instantly picked up by journalists and has a great chance to become common, even for its sound alone: the consonants: l, m, n, half-open, easy to pronounce, and the whole sounds like ‘laziness’ and it also resembles an English word, with its –ing ending, suggesting continuity, duration.

(Andrzej Markowski)

MINISTRA (a female minister)

It is a new word, in a sense, yet it triggered (or strengthened) a discussion on the freedom of self-defining, on the influence on the language, and on different aspects of equality of rights,a discussion important not only for linguists. (Jerzy Bralczyk)


It is a this year’s entry in the “Smolensk Dictionary”. It was used so often, that it has probably dominated the discourse – and its concreteness (conf. “brzoza” – birch-tree, “hel” – helium, “mgła” – fog, mist) is an interesting contribution to the symbolisation of certain phenomena and attitudes. (Jerzy Bralczyk)

This word merits the title of the “word of the fourth quarter” rather than of the whole 2014. Nontheless it must have been strongly printed into the social consciousness, given that it has been submitted as a candidate in the internet plebiscite. It was certainly for the media and their announcements of presence/absence of traces of this legendary substance on the wreckage of the well-known Tupolev. (Walery Pisarek)

ZAMACH (assassination attempt)

A candidate for a word of the year you could bet on according to the internet plebiscite, as well as to the statistic lexical analysis of the last year’s inputs to the National Corpus of Polish Language. Its presence in Polish political discourse, proving a trauma after 10th April 2010 that has not yet been worked through by a significant part of the society, was strengthened by press releases on an attempt, which had been allegedly prepared by a would-be assassin from Krakow. (Walery Pisarek)