Karen Belz
December 12, 2017 10:19 am
Drew Coffman / Unsplash

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One of our favorite traditions is finding out what the Merriam-Webster Word of the Year is. This year, it’s a pretty powerful one — feminism. It’s a solid word for many reasons. One, because it’s a word that sums up the advocacy of women’s rights, and two, because it means that a lot of  people looked it up this year. Not only does Merriam-Webster give the honor to a word that helps sum up the year, but a word that was popular through search.

The word started gaining popularity at the start of the year, when women worldwide participated in Women’s Marches to show support towards women’s rights. USA Today reports that the word saw another spike after Kellyann Conway made the statement that she doesn’t see herself as a feminist in the “classic sense.” We can imagine it was also popular after so many women decided to speak out against sexual assault and abuse, as feminism and the #MeToo movement are closely linked.

While we couldn’t pick a better, more powerful word to sum up the year, it got us thinking about what the Merriam-Webster Word of the Year has been for the past few years. So, here’s a mild refresher on other words that have earned the title.

2010’s Word of The Year was “austerity.”

Austerity, in this sense, means “enforced or extreme economy especially on a national scale” according to Merriam Webster,  and was often found in searches due to — you guessed it — the economy.

2011’s Word of The Year was “pragmatic.”

Pragmatic means “relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters,” according to the online dictionary. The funny part about this one is that while it was searched a lot, it wasn’t based on any specific event. John Morse, the president and publisher of Merriam-Webster, thinks it got a boost because “it captures the current American mood of encouraging practicality over frivolity.”

2012’s Word of The Year was “socialism,” tied with “capitalism.”

We can blame the election for that. “There’s no surprise there that politics was in people’s minds,” said Editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski to CBS News after the news broke, according to NPR.

2013’s Word of the Year was “science.”

This was a big year, since many people were convinced that the word would be “selfie”. Personally, we like “science” a lot better.

2014’s Word of the Year was “culture.”

“The term conveys a kind of academic attention to systematic behavior and allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group: we speak of a ‘culture of transparency’ or ‘consumer culture,'” the website stated.

2015’s Word of the Year was “-ism.”

Okay, so it’s not actually a word. It’s a suffix. Still, a lot of users were looking it up. Probably because so many big words end in “ism” — for example, fascism, racism, feminism, capitalism, terrorism, and communism.

And finally…

Last year’s Word of the Year was “surreal.”

Merriam-Webster credits three moments for the peak traffic of “surreal” — the Brussels terror attacks, the terrorist attack in Nice, and, as expected, the presidential election in November.

It was a surreal time indeed. The word itself means “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” as well as “unbelievable,” and we uttered it a few times ourselves back in 2016.

Now that we’re more familiar about how these words are picked, we look forward to seeing what word summarizes 2018.

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