The Word of the Year Goes To

By Merriam-Webster, Special for  USDR

Merriam-Webster Inc., America’s leading dictionary publisher, has announced its top Words of the Year for 2016. This year’s data-driven list is determined by two simple criteria: the words must show a high volume of lookups and a significant year-over-year increase in lookups at The results shed light on topics and ideas that sparked the nation’s interest in  2016.

The Word of the Year for 2016 is surreal—with lookups of the word spiking after a number of major events worldwide, beginning with the Brussels terror attacks in March.  Surreal was used in descriptions of the coup attempt in Turkey later in the year and in coverage of the terrorist attack in Nice.  The largest spike in lookups for surreal followed the U.S. election in  November.

“Spikes of interest in a word are usually triggered by a single event, so what’s truly remarkable this year about surreal is that so many different stories led people to look it up,” says Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large for Merriam-Webster. “Historically, surreal has been one of the words most searched after tragedy, most notably in the days following 9/11, but it was associated with a wide variety of stories this  year.”

Video: See Peter Sokolowski talk about the Word of the  Year

Other top lookups this year include bigly—interestingly the most looked-up word that was never actually used.   Donald Trump used the phrase big league in a presidential debate, and often throughout the election, but the manner in which he pronounced the words caused many people to assume he was using a single  word—bigly.

The word deplorable saw a large spike in lookups after Hillary Clinton used it in an unusual  way.

Deplorable is defined as an adjective but Clinton’s unfamiliar use of the word as a noun may have sent people to the dictionary for  clarification.

Gallery: Get more detail on all the 2016 Words of the  Year

Pop culture and entertainment drove lookups to revenant, the frontier film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and a word frequently looked up from the film’s release through his Oscar win.  The news of Prince’s death caused a spike in the word icon, meaning “a person who is very successful and admired.”  The return of Gilmore girls inspired many people to look up the Latin phrase in omnia paratus, which means “ready for all  things.”

“Events often have specific words tied to them, and it’s always fascinating to see which of those words people latch onto,” says Kory Stamper, Associate Editor at Merriam-Webster. “You can get a sense as to how people are responding to an event by the words that are looked up again and  again.”

See the full list of Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year  here.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. For more than 150 years, in print and now in digital media, Merriam-Webster has been America’s leading and most-trusted provider of language information. Each month, our websites and apps offer guidance to tens of millions of visitors. In print, our publications include Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary (among the best-selling books in American history) and newly published dictionaries for English-language learners. All Merriam-Webster products and services are backed by the largest team of professional dictionary editors and writers in America, and one of the largest in the  world.

For more information, visit and follow @MerriamWebster and @PeterSokolowski on  Twitter.

SOURCE Merriam-Webster  Inc.

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