It’s that time of year. Everyone is putting out a top 10 list – even Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Who knew? Are these their favorite words, the words most spoken, or what? So we looked it up and found out the Merriam-Webster Top 10 is the words we looked up most in 2014.
Sadly, this word spiked in September after first person to succumb to Ebola in the U.S. made the headlines. MW says people often look up ‘morbidity’ because they confuse it with ‘mortality.’ The former comes from the Latin word for disease; the latter comes from the Latin word for ‘death.’
“What do we want? Autonomy! What does it mean? Look it up!” World politics drove ‘autonomy’ into the Top 10. Scotland voted for it, Ukrainians fought for it, and demonstrators in Hong Kong demanded it.
One has to be a pretty good speller to even try looking up ‘surreptitious.’ This word spiked when word leaked out about the government’s covert data collection and intelligence gathering. The credit card security breach at Target and Home Depot also drove folks to look up ‘surreptitious.’
Look-ups for ‘innovation’ increased by more than 30% in 2014, landing it into the top 10. MW says Walter Isaacson’s book The Innovators got people thinking about it.
#6 Je ne sais quoi
Of all things, it took a chicken commercial to get the French phrase ‘je ne sais quoi’ into MW’s Hall of Fame. A guy tells his buddy that chicken wings will make him irresistible to chicks. They will give him that “certain je ne sais quoi.” His friend has no idea what that means and replies, “Jenna said what?”
The word has been around for so long, it’s a bit baffling why anyone would need to look it up. Still, according to MW, look-ups for ‘feminism’ spiked several times in 2014. When TIME Magazine heralded 2014 as the “year of pop feminism” folks went running for their dictionaries.
MW says we look up ‘legacy’ just about every time someone retired, departed, or died. According to MW, ‘legacy’ is something we “receive from the past, or leave for the future.”
It comes from the Latin word meaning “ambush.” MW cites 3 reasons for the insidious look-ups of insidious. The horror sequel, Insidious 3, insidious malware attacks, and the insidious disease, Ebola.
Look-ups of the word ‘nostalgia’ doubled in 2014. It means “homesickness.” The folks at MW say all the look-ups were driven by shows like Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey.
In the age of multiculturalism, a word we heard so often was the word we know so little about. According to MW’s website, the ‘back-to-school’ crowd put ‘culture’ at the top of the list because it crops up so often in college course syllabi. Used in sentences like ‘a culture of transparency’ or ‘celebrity culture,’ it can be very broad or very specific. Yes, culture is confusing.