Word of the Year 2015 (U.S.)

atkins bookshelf wordsLike their counterparts at the Oxford English Dictionary in England, the editors of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, recently selected the word of the year: -ism, a versatile suffix (derived from the Greek -ismos) that generally denotes a distinctive doctrine or ideology. In Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged dictionary, there are 2,733 English words that end in -ism — providing plenty of ideologies for every person on the planet to choose from. As Arthur Goldwag, who has written a dictionary of -isms (what he calls “invaluable intellectual and social shorthand”), observes: “The formulation of -isms is something that people [just] do and something that they overdo as well; it’s also something they resist and resent. The more -isms, the more schisms.” Amen, brother!

In an interview, dictionary editor Peter Sokolowshi explains that there are two main criteria for word of the year: first, the word must show a high level of traffic; second, it must show significant year-over-year increase in look-ups on the American dictionary’s website (merriam-webster.com). Sokolowski adds, “These words reveal our curiosity and engagement. We’re looking at the news through the prism of vocabulary. A definition can be the beginning of reflection.”

In 2015, the seven most looked-up words, representing millions of look-ups, had two things in common: they end is the same suffix, and all are very serious subjects. The top seven words, in descending order, were: socialism, fascism, racism, feminism, communism, capitalism, and terrorism.

Other of the most looked-up words of the year in 2015 included: marriage, hypocrite, respect, inspiration, and minion, which were triggered by major news stories (the last by a popular family film).

Read related posts: Word of the Year 2015 (UK)
Top Ten Words of the Year: 2015
Word of the Year 2013

Word of the Year 2012
How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?

For further reading: Isms & Ologies: All the Movements, Ideologies and Doctrines That Have Shaped Our World by Arthur Goldwag (2007)

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