2012 (MMXII) was a leap year starting on Sunday (dominical letter AG) of the Gregorian calendar, the 2012th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the twelfth year of the 3rd millennium, the twelfth year of the 21st century, and the third year of the 2010s decade.
2012 was designated as:
- International Year of Cooperatives
- International Year of Sustainable Energy for All
- January 23 – Iran–European Union relations: The European Union adopts an embargo against Iran in protest of that nation's continued effort to enrich uranium.
- February 6 – The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II marks the sixtieth anniversary of her accession to the thrones of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and the sixtieth anniversary of her fitting Head of the Commonwealth.
- February 19 – Iran suspends oil exports to Britain and France, following sanctions put in place by the European Union and the United States in January.
- February 21 – Greek government-debt crisis: Eurozone finance ministers reach an agreement on a second, €130-billion Greek bailout.
- February 27 – Arab Spring: As a result of continuing protests, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is succeeded by his Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
- March 13 – After 244 years after its first publication, the Encyclopædia Britannica discontinues its print edition.
- March 22 – The President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, is ousted in a coup d'état after mutinous soldiers attack government offices.
- April 6 – The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad unilaterally declares the independence of Azawad from Mali.
- April 12 – Mutinous soldiers in Guinea-Bissau stage a coup d'état and take control of the capital city, Bissau. They arrest interim President Raimundo Pereira and leading presidential candidate Carlos Gomes Júnior in the midst of a presidential election campaign.
- April 13 – Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3, a North Korean Earth observation satellite, explodes shortly after launch. The United States and additional countries had called the impending launch a violation of United Nations Security Council demands. The launch was planned to mark the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the republic.
- April 26 – Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is found guilty on 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity throughout the Sierra Leone Civil War.
- May 2 – A pastel version of The Scream, by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, sells for US$120 million in a New York City auction, setting a new world record for an auctioned work of art.
- May 12 – August 12 – The 2012 World Expo takes place in Yeosu, South Korea.
- May 22 – Tokyo Skytree, the tallest self-supporting tower in the world at 634 metres high, is opened to the public.
- June 5–6 – The century's second and last solar transit of Venus occurs. The next pair are predicted to occur in 2117 and 2125.
- June 18 – Shenzhou 9, a Chinese spacecraft carrying three Chinese astronauts, including the first-ever female, docks manually with orbiting module Tiangong-1, making them the third country, after the United States and Russia, to successfully perform the mission.
- June 24 – Lonesome George, the last known individual of the Pinta Island tortoise subspecies, dies in Galápagos National Park, thus making the subspecies extinct.
- July 4 – CERN announces the discovery of a new particle with properties consistent with the Higgs boson after experiments at the Large Hadron Collider.
- July 27 – August 12 – The 2012 Summer Olympics are held in London, England, United Kingdom.
- July 30–31 – In the worst power outage in world history, the 2012 India blackouts leave 620 million people without power.
- August 6 – Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory mission's rover, successfully lands on Mars.
- August 31
- Researchers successfully perform the first implantation of an early prototype bionic eye with 24 electrodes.
- Armenia severs diplomatic relations with Hungary, following the extradition to Azerbaijan and subsequent pardoning of Ramil Safarov, who was convicted of killing an Armenian soldier in Hungary in 2004. The move is additionally met with fierce criticism from additional countries.
- September 7 – Canada officially cuts diplomatic ties with Iran by closing its embassy in Tehran, and orders the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, over support for Syria, nuclear plans and human rights abuses.
- September 11–27 – A series of terrorist attacks are directed against United States diplomatic missions worldwide, as well as diplomatic missions of Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In the US, opinions are divided over whether the attacks are a reaction to a YouTube trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims. In Libya, among the dead is US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
- October 14 – Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner becomes the first person to break the sound barrier without any machine assistance throughout a record space dive out of the Red Bull Stratos helium-filled balloon from 24 miles (39 kilometers) over Roswell, New Mexico in the United States.
- October 16 – Seven paintings worth $25 million are stolen from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
- October 24–30 – Hurricane Sandy kills at least 209 people in the Caribbean, Bahamas, United States and Canada. Considerable storm surge damage causes major disruption to the eastern seaboard of the United States.
- November 14–21 – Israel launches Operation Pillar of Defense against the Palestinian-governed Gaza Strip, killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. In the following week 140 Palestinians and five Israelis are killed in an ensuing cycle of violence. A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is announced by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after the week-long escalation in hostilities in Southern Israel and the Gaza Strip.
- November 25 – December 9 – Typhoon Bopha, known as "Pablo" in the Philippines, kills at least 1,067 with around 838 people still missing. The typhoon causes considerable damage in the island of Mindanao.
- November 29 – The UN General Assembly approves a motion granting Palestine non-member observer state status.
- December 8 – In Qatar, the UN Climate Change Conference agrees to extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2020.
- January 24 – Princess Athena of Denmark
- February 23 – Princess Estelle of Sweden, Duchess of Östergötland
- January 1 – Kiro Gligorov, first President of the Republic of Macedonia (b. 1917)
- January 3 – Josef Škvorecký, Czech writer (b. 1924)
- January 9 – Malam Bacai Sanhá, sixth and twelfth President of Guinea-Bissau (b. 1947)
- January 13
- January 15 – Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Spanish politician (b. 1922)
- January 20
- January 24 – Theodoros Angelopoulos, Greek filmmaker (b. 1935)
- January 29
- February 1 – Wisława Szymborska, Polish Nobel poet (b. 1923)
- February 3
- February 6 – Antoni Tàpies, Spanish artist (b. 1923)
- February 11 – Whitney Houston, American singer and actress (b. 1963)
- February 19 – Renato Dulbecco, Italian-born American Nobel virologist (b. 1914)
- February 25 – Maurice André, French trumpeter (b. 1933)
- February 29 – Davy Jones, British singer and actor (b. 1945)
- March 6 – Francisco Xavier do Amaral, first President of East Timor (b. 1937)
- March 7 – Włodzimierz Smolarek, Polish footballer (b. 1957)
- March 10
- March 14 – Ċensu Tabone, fourth President of Malta (b. 1913)
- March 16 – Estanislau Basora, Spanish footballer (b. 1926)
- March 17
- March 18 – George Tupou V, King of Tonga (b. 1948)
- March 21 – Tonino Guerra, Italian screenwriter (b. 1920)
- March 23
- March 25 – Antonio Tabucchi, Italian writer (b. 1943)
- March 27 – Adrienne Rich, American writer and feminist (b. 1929)
- March 28
- April 1
- April 5 – Bingu wa Mutharika, third President of Malawi (b. 1934)
- April 7
- April 11 – Ahmed Ben Bella, first President of Algeria (b. 1916)
- April 15 – Murray Rose, Australian swimmer (b. 1939)
- April 16 – Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, Danish shipping magnate (b. 1913)
- April 18 – Dick Clark, American television host and producer (b. 1929)
- April 19 – Levon Helm, American musician (b. 1940)
- April 20 – Valeri Vasiliev, Russian ice hockey player (b. 1949)
- April 21 – Charles Colson, American evangelist (b. 1931)
- April 28 – Ervin Zádor, Hungarian water polo player (b. 1935)
- April 29
- April 30 – Alexander Dale Oen, Norwegian swimmer (b. 1985)
- May 4 – Rashidi Yekini, Nigerian footballer (b. 1963)
- May 8 – Maurice Sendak, American author (b. 1928)
- May 9 – Vidal Sassoon, British hairdresser (b. 1928)
- May 10 – Carroll Shelby, American automotive designer, racing driver and entrepreneur (b. 1923)
- May 15 – Carlos Fuentes, Panamanian-born Mexican writer (b. 1928)
- May 17 – Donna Summer, American singer (b. 1948)
- May 18 – Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, German lyric baritone and conductor (b. 1925)
- May 20 – Robin Gibb, British-Australian musician (b. 1949)
- May 29 – Kaneto Shindo, Japanese film director (b. 1912)
- May 30 – Andrew Huxley, British Nobel physiologist (b. 1917)
- June 2 – Kathryn Joosten, American actress (b. 1939)
- June 3 – Roy Salvadori, British racing driver (b. 1922)
- June 4 – Eduard Khil, Russian baritone (b. 1934)
- June 5 – Ray Bradbury, American author (b. 1920)
- June 11
- June 12 – Elinor Ostrom, American Nobel economist (b. 1933)
- June 13 – William Standish Knowles, American Nobel chemist (b. 1917)
- June 16 – Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (b. 1934)
- June 17 – Rodney King, American criminal and victim of police brutality (b. 1965)
- June 26 – Nora Ephron, American film director and screenwriter (b. 1941)
- June 30 – Yitzhak Shamir, seventh Prime Minister of Israel (b. 1915)
- July 1 – Alan G. Poindexter, American astronaut (b. 1961)
- July 3
- July 8 – Ernest Borgnine, American actor (b. 1917)
- July 13 – Richard D. Zanuck, American film producer (b. 1934)
- July 14 – Sixten Jernberg, Swedish cross-country skier (b. 1929)
- July 15 – Celeste Holm, American actress (b. 1917)
- July 16
- July 19 – Omar Suleiman, Egyptian general, diplomat and intelligence officer (b. 1936)
- July 23 – Sally Ride, American astronaut and physicist (b. 1951)
- July 24 – John Atta Mills, President of Ghana (b. 1944)
- July 27 – Jack Taylor, English football referee (b. 1930)
- July 29 – Chris Marker, French writer and documentary filmmaker (b. 1921)
- July 30 – Maeve Binchy, Irish author (b. 1939)
- July 31 – Gore Vidal, American author, playwright, screenwriter, and political activist (b. 1925)
- August 5 – Chavela Vargas, Costa Rican-born Mexican singer (b. 1919)
- August 6
- August 14 – Svetozar Gligorić, Serbian chess grandmaster (b. 1923)
- August 15 – Harry Harrison, American author (b. 1925)
- August 18
- August 19 – Tony Scott, British film director (b. 1944)
- August 20
- August 21 – William Thurston, American mathematician (b. 1946)
- August 24 – Félix Miélli Venerando, Brazilian footballer (b. 1937)
- August 25 – Neil Armstrong, American astronaut (b. 1930)
- August 31
- September 1 – Hal David, American lyricist (b. 1921)
- September 3
- September 8 – Thomas Szasz, Hungarian-American psychiatrist (b. 1920)
- September 12 – Sid Watkins, British neurosurgeon (b. 1928)
- September 16 – Ragnhild Alexandra Lorentzen, Princess of Norway (b. 1930)
- September 18 – Santiago Carrillo, Spanish politician (b. 1915)
- September 23
- September 25 – Andy Williams, American singer (b. 1927)
- September 27 – Herbert Lom, Czech-born actor (b. 1917)
- September 28 – Michael O'Hare, American actor (b. 1952)
- September 30 – Barbara Ann Scott, Canadian Olympic figure skater (b. 1928)
- October 1 – Eric Hobsbawm, British Marxist historian (b. 1917)
- October 6 – Chadli Bendjedid, third President of Algeria (b. 1929)
- October 11 – Helmut Haller, German footballer (b. 1939)
- October 14 – Arlen Specter, American politician (b. 1930)
- October 15 – King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, (b. 1922)
- October 17 – Sylvia Kristel, Dutch actress (b. 1952)
- October 20 – E. Donnall Thomas, American Nobel physician (b. 1920)
- October 21
- October 22 – Russell Means, American Sioux actor and activist (b. 1939)
- October 24 – Margaret Osborne duPont, American tennis player (b. 1918)
- October 27 – Hans Werner Henze, German composer (b. 1926)
- November 5 – Elliott Carter, American composer (b. 1908)
- November 19 – Boris Strugatsky, Soviet-Russian science fiction writer (b. 1933)
- November 23 – Larry Hagman, American actor (b. 1931)
- November 25
- November 26 – Joseph Murray, American Nobel surgeon (b. 1919)
- November 30 – I. K. Gujral, twelfth Prime Minister of India (b. 1919)
- December 4 – Miguel Calero, Colombian footballer (b. 1971)
- December 5
- December 9 – Patrick Moore, British astronomer and broadcaster (b. 1923)
- December 10 – Iajuddin Ahmed, thirteenth President of Bangladesh (b. 1931)
- December 11
- December 17 – Daniel Inouye, American politician (b. 1924)
- December 24
- December 26 – Gerry Anderson, British television and film producer, director, writer (b. 1929)
- December 27 – Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., American general (b. 1934)
- December 30 – Rita Levi-Montalcini, Italian Nobel neurologist (b. 1909)
- Chemistry – Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka
- Economics – Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd Shapley
- Literature – Mo Yan
- Peace – European Union
- Physics – Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland
- Physiology or Medicine – John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka