CULTURE & ARTS

Merriam-Webster's Word Of The Year Says A Lot About The State Of America

And the "word" isn't even a word.

According to Merriam-Webster, this year has been the year of -isms. Feminism, socialism, racism, terrorism -- American rhetoric in 2015 was filled with the suffix. Or so says our country's "most trustworthy dictionary," which just deemed "-ism" its word of the year.

"A suffix is the Word of the Year because a small group of words that share this three-letter ending triggered both high volume and significant year-over-year increase in lookups at Merriam-Webster.com," the dictionary professed this week. It specifically identified the four -isms above as popular search terms, along with fascism, communism and capitalism. 

What might have prompted these searches?

While there are 2,733 English words ending in -ism entered in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged dictionary, these seven -isms accounted for millions of lookups in 2015. Merriam-Webster says that searches for "socialism" in 2015 have increased by 169 percent since last year, while searches for "racism" have increased by 50 percent and searches for "communism" increased by 38 percent.

The dictionary also notes that searches for terms like "terrorism" and "fascism" spiked after the attacks in Paris, Colorado Springs, and San Bernardino this year. 

"In November, some conservatives began using fascist to describe Trump’s proposals and style, and at the beginning of December, writers for Slate and The New York Times and a commentator on CNN all referred to Trump as a 'fascist,' sending many people to the dictionary."

Socialism and capitalism shared the No. 1 and 2 spots in Merriam-Webster's 2012 ranking of words, influenced by the popularity of the terms during Obama's reelection campaign. In 2008, the word was similarly relevant to the time period: it was bailout.

You can compare "-ism" to the words of the year chosen by Oxford and Dictionary.com, which are, respectively, the emoji known as "Face with Tears of Joy," or, 😂, and "identity."

Merriam-Webster bestowed honorable mention upon a few other terms -- marriage, hypocrite, respect, inspiration and ... minion. Yes, minion, referring to a small, yellow creature endemic to the world depicted in the 3D animated film "Minions," made the cut. 

 

Past Words Of The Year

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