It’s official. Merriam-Webster has named “surreal” the Word of the Year for 2016.
The dictionary service saw spikes in the “lookup” of the word following a number of major worldwide events, including the terror attacks in Brussels and Nice, a coup attempt in Turkey, and most recently, the U.S. election in November. (The largest spike in people looking up the word’s meaning occurred after Nov. 8.)
“Spikes of interest in a word are usually triggered by a single event, so what’s truly remarkable this year about ‘surreal’ is that so many different stories led people to look it up,” says Editor at Large Peter Sokolowski in a statement. “Historically, surreal has been one of the words most searched after tragedy, most notably in the days following 9/11, but it was associated with a wide variety of stories this year.”
In order to determine the word of the year, the dictionary publisher looked at two different factors, namely what word has a high volume of lookups, as well as what word has a “year-over-year” increase on their site.
Other political event-driven words that were looked up this year included “bigly” – after President-Elect Donald Trump’s pronunciation – and “deplorable” – after Hillary Clinton used the word as a noun.
Last year, Merriam-Webster named “-ism” its word of the year. This year, Dictionary.com’s word of the year was “Xenophobic” and “post-truth” topped the Oxford Dictionary’s list.