New Word of the Year Shows How Holding on to Dreams Endures

'Perseverance' has become one of the most searched words online.

Dec 26, 2021
A yellow flower makes it way through some wooden planks and blooms symbolizing perseverance

(Trudy Simmons /

The holiday season provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the past year and its triumphs. And, as Global Citizen reminds us, humanity had a lot to celebrate in 2021, be it eliminating malaria in China, pioneering an HIV vaccine, or taking serious steps to tackle poverty.

A year of effort and triumphs
These massive achievements of 2021 all reflect “one small step for man” in making the world safer, happier and more equal. 2021 also saw “one giant leap for mankind.” The Mars rover, Perseverance, touched down on the Red Planet this past February. 

And mankind was quite invested in that leap. The Daily Mail reports that Cambridge Dictionaries declared “perseverance” as the word of the year. People searched the term some 243,000 times in 2021!

The Cambridge Dictionary defines perseverance as a  “continued effort to do or achieve something, even when this is difficult or takes a long time.” This word exemplifies a quality that allows us to topple obstacles, adjust to changes and never let go of our dreams. It’s precisely the attribute that lets us innovate.

Touchdown on Mars
The epitome of this innovation is man’s ability to go beyond earthly limits and traverse the cosmos. And true to its name, the unmanned Perseverance rover has accomplished this.

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A post shared by NASA (@nasa) provides the backstory. Perseverance and its sister helicopter (the tiny four pound Ingenuity) made landfall in the Jezero crater, the remnant of an ancient and now arid martian lakebed, back in February.

Since then the rover has been roaming the planet beaming photos and updates earthward and collecting rock samples in its search for life on Mars.

Persistent teen gives the rover its name
Day in, day out, the Perseverance rover lives up to its namesake with its full commitment to gathering samples and taking data. And the way the “little rover that could '' got its name is its own story.

According to NASA, 13 year old Alexander Mathers won the rights to name the rover after submitting the winning entry in a naming contest. Alexander used to spend most of his time on video games. But, after attending Space camp, he fell in love with the thought of interstellar flight.

Alexander’s interest and his compulsive reading of the NASA blog led him to participate in the contest along with 28,000 other students. NASA chose his entry from among the thousands because “Perseverance,” his proposed name, “captured the spirit of exploration.”

NASA’s choice also captured the spirit of Alexander, a student who lived up to his submission. In his own words "This Mars rover will help pave the way for human presence there and I wanted to try and help in any way I could. Refusal of the challenge was not an option."

Mankind has demonstrated its drive for exploration and the fact that “refusal of challenges is never an option” over and over again in 2021. And now that spirit is encapsulated in the word of the year!

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Adina is a writer who believes in the transformative power of words. She understands that everyone has a valuable story to tell. Adina’s goal is to learn new things every day and share her discoveries with others.