Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year Is Here, and It’s Perfect

published Dec 13, 2017
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Merriam-Webster has been dutifully identifying the Word of the Year since 2003, highlighting the words that were most searched and how they capture the current cultural moment. Appropriately, this year’s word is Feminism.

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Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” It was the most searched term on the site in 2017, up 70 percent from 2016.

There were spikes in search traffic around certain events — The Women’s March in January, Kellyanne Conway’s interview where she said she is not a feminist, and pop culture events like The Handmaid’s Tale and Wonder Woman. The latter end of the year was dominated by conversations around sexual assault and the #MeToo movement. In discussing the word of the year Merriam-Webster explains what we can see or learn about ourselves from the words we search.

No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events, or stories of a given year—particularly a year with so much news and so many stories. But when a single word is looked up in great volume, and also stands out as one associated with several different important stories, we can learn something about ourselves through the prism of vocabulary.

Other notable words of the year include dotard, recuse and complicit— the latter having been chosen by as Word of the Year.

Look back at 2017: