Word of the Year 2016 (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, selected surreal as the word of the year for 2016. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines surreal as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” The word is derived from surrealism, an early 20th-century art movement that depicts the unconscious mind (most notably, the work of Salvador Dali). The term surrealist was coined by French poet and playwright Guillaume Apollinaire; the word first appeared in his play Les Mamelles de Tiresias (1903).

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). The editors elaborate: “Surreal had three major spikes in interest that were higher in volume and were sustained for longer periods of time than in past years. In March, the word was used in coverage of the Brussels terror attacks. Then, in July, we saw the word spike again: it was used in descriptions of the coup attempt in Turkey and in coverage of the terrorist attack in Nice. Finally, we saw the largest spike in lookups for surreal following the U.S. election in November… Surreal is often looked up spontaneously in moments of both tragedy and surprise, whether or not it is used in speech or writing. This is not surprising: we often search for just the right word to help us bring order to abstract thoughts, emotions, or reactions. Surreal seems to be, for 2016, such a word.”

Other of the most looked-up words of the year in 2016 included:
revenant: one that returns after death or a long absence

icon: 1. pictoral representation; 2. conventional religious image typically painted on a small wooden panel; 3. an object of uncritical devotion

In Omnia Paratus: (Latin) ready for all things

bigly: (obsolete) of great strength (this word spiked in lookups, because people misheard Trump when he said “big league”)

deplorable: 1. lamentable; 2. deserving censure or contempt

irregardless: regardless (irregardless is non-standard English, used primarily in speech)

assumpsit: (Latin) an express or implied promise or contract not under seal on which an action may be brought

Faute de Mieux: (French) for lack of something better or more desirable

feckless: 1. weak, ineffective; 2. worthless, irresponsible

Read related posts: Words Worth Reviving: 2016
Word of the Year 2016 (UK)
What is a Phantonym?

How Many Words in the English Language?
Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year 2016
Word of the Year 2015 (U.S.)
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: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-of-the-year-2016

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