Is the Word of the Year “Fascism”? As It Turns Out, No.


Merriam-Webster Unabridged , available online to the current Washington and Lee University community through the University Library, usually is considered the most comprehensive and most respected dictionary of the modern English language.

Each year the Merriam Webster editors identify a particular word or term as the official Word of the Year, an exercise also enjoyed by other dictionaries, newspapers, magazines, and anyone else with opinions about the English language.     Some of these selections are made subjectively, while others involve  quantitative methodology.    (For evidence of the variety, have a look at this list of articles on the subject, taken from the Academic Search Complete database.)

Merriam-Webster Unabridged routinely keeps track of the number of online queries made in its database, displaying lists of searches in the past 24 hours and in the past 7 days.   The natural outcome of this data-gathering is a Word of the Year, indicating the most looked-up word in the calendar year — and the editors are a bit alarmed about how this is playing out in 2016.

The Guardian recently reported on Merriam-Webster’s concern that the word “fascism” might be the top search in 2016, even going so far as to suggest other words readers might want to search.   If you want to follow this controversy, the Merriam-Webster Twitter site is worth a follow.     Or just keep an eye on the Merriam-Webster Unabridged homepage.

Feel free to vote early and often.

Update 12/19/16     —      See Merriam-Webster site, along with commentary from The Guardian.



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